Klan leaflets infuriate Havre
August 18, 2014
Toni The Boy walked on to her front lawn on Havre's east side Saturday to find what she thought was a piece of trash - a plastic ziplock bag with a paper inside. She threw it out.
Then she found a second and third plastic baggie with a paper and a small stone so it wouldn't blow away. She opened it up and was horrified at what she saw.
The paper had a large insignia of The United Klans of America.
"Neighborhood Watch. You can sleep well tonight knowing the UKA is awake," it read.
The fliers were apparently delivered Friday night or Saturday morning under cover of darkness.
The leaflet included a phone number to call and a website address that offered more information.
The leaflets had been distributed through The Boy's neighborhood where many Native Americans live but were also distributed to other areas in the city. People in Highland Park, areas near Highland Cemetery and in parts of the historic district received the leaflets.
"I grew up in Havre," The Boy said. "I have never seen anything like this. We sometimes had racial problems, but nothing like this."
Social media throughout the Hi-Line Saturday and Sunday lit up with people expressing outrage over the leaflets.
Calls, texts and messages to the Havre Daily News flooded in from people concerned about the leaflets.
"When I first saw it, I thought it was about a legitimate Neighborhood Watch," said one caller. "We have had some problems around here, and I thought a Neighborhood Watch might help."
Then she discovered it was from the Klan.
"It's scary," she said.
The Ku Klux Klan was formed in the South after the Civil War to intimidate freed slaves from voting and taking part in the political process. Its influence has has gone through peaks and valleys since then.
Often it used violence to fight African-Americans, Catholics, Native Americans, Jews and gays. Wearing white robes and hoods, the Klan used lynchings, arson and whippings to enforce its beliefs on others. In recent years, it has broken down into disarray, with splinter groups forming all over the country.
The phone number on the leaflet was in the Huntsville, Alabama, area code.
The website of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based organization that has been tracking hate groups since 1971, said the only Klan organization it has tracked down in Montana is in Great Falls.
A message left at the number provided on the Klan leaflet was not returned by deadline this morning.
John Abarr, the head of the Montana UKA, admitted his group was organizing in Havre, but added: "I'm not at liberty to talk about it."
"We are growing by leaps and bounds around Montana," he said. "That is largely because of Obama."
He said he advises people not to reveal their Klan membership.
He said his campaign for Congress in 2012 ended "because of bias against the Klan."
He said his organization is not racist.
"It's not racist to be proud to be white," he said.
He said his goal is to create a white republic in what is now the northwestern United States.
Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon and Washington should leave the union and form its own republic, Abarr said.
Even though only whites would be allowed to vote or hold office in this new republic, Natives would be allowed to stay.
"The Indians were here before us," he said.
But he predicted that the predicament of Natives will be repeated.
"Once whites are in the minority, we may be on reservations," he said.
In addition to the UKA in Great Falls, Montana is also home to White Nationalist groups in Whitefish and Kalispell and a neo-Nazi group in Billings, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Ward 1 City Councilmember Bonnie Parenteau said she hopes the the people of Havre rise above the situation.
"What do you do other than say I don't appreciate it?" Parenteau said.
Parenteau said she is not naive enough to think it will disappear if ignored, but thinks giving them time strengthens them.
"We're all used to some of that but at what point do you respond?" she said. "I just really don't want to see anything like that here."