Sunday, August 09, 2020

Action against intolerance and shining light on hate

by John Muhlfeld
| June 11, 2020 1:00 AM

The citizens of small towns like Whitefish, Montana have joined in recent protests around the nation and the world -- of people rising up to use their voices to express anger against racism, and larger issues in our society including police violence and the unnecessary use of force.

The City of Whitefish and the Whitefish Police Department are proud to serve our citizens and condemn any actions that reflect racism and bigotry. When this community has been faced with threats of discrimination and violence in the past, we have acted together to protect human rights. We take this responsibility seriously and will continue to act to protect and serve all citizens.

Recent news stories have vividly shown the anger of one individual within a sea of protesters chanting “Peaceful! Peaceful! Peaceful!” We condemn the actions espousing hate during the peaceful protest in Whitefish last week. And we are proud of local Samantha Francine, who remembered her father’s powerful words: “No matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you’re human.” Samantha recently wrote, “When I lifted up my sunglasses, he saw me. I saw him,” and she continued to remain peaceful. Samantha, thank you for your courage, your wisdom, and your calmness.

We also applaud our own police department for calmly diffusing the situation and charging the individual with disorderly conduct. Our officers clearly demonstrate what it means to serve and protect -- and they continue to uphold our community with the highest of ethics. Excessive force by police officers anywhere should be condemned.

Let me be clear, the hateful actions of a few are not representative of our community’s core values and principles. Ideals of tolerance, nondiscrimination, and inclusion have consistently been reiterated through official city ordinances and proclamations, as well as in our own positive community dialogue and friendly nature.

We have a strong inclusive community here, where neighbors help neighbors, people look you in the eye and say hello when you’re walking down the sidewalk, and we welcome people from all walks of life. As a community, we need to look inward and remain open to ongoing dialogue on how we can make positive change to these issues. The City of Whitefish is dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of all individuals to peacefully protest on those same sidewalks -- and we continue to ask all who are involved to respect each other’s rights and to remain peaceful.

These are some of the most challenging times we have recently faced as a nation and as a community. We are outraged by the criminal acts against people of color, as well as violence against our indigenous peoples and peaceful protesters across the nation.

The City honors its responsibility to promote equality, tolerance, nondiscrimination, and diversity within our community and beyond. And it is through respect, kindness, and thoughtful dialogue that we will continue to become a better community and nation.

Here in Whitefish, Montana, we recognize the dignity of all persons -- and continue to take action against intolerance, shining light on hate whenever we witness it.

There is still much work to be done.

—Whitefish Mayor John Muhlfeld