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Butte residents work to remove white supremacist propaganda spotted around town

Butte citizens remove hate speech from public spaces
Posted at 5:34 PM, Jan 25, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-29 10:44:34-05

BUTTE — For the past couple of years a group of loosely organized Butte people have working to take down white supremacist propaganda that’s been cropping up around town occasionally, and they say it’s really important that the community comes out with a strong response against this type of messaging.

"lt’s insidious and it creeps in and you know, it has effects that we don’t even realize. It makes people feel uncomfortable and not want to be here in our community," says Dave Hutchins.

Hutchins and and other concerned citizens have been out taking down a rash of hate signs around the Mining City and on Thursday he showed up with a spray bottle and squeegee to remove a sign from a bus stop.

The bus stop is located on a busy street for vehicles and foot traffic, so it’s hard to say how many people may have encountered the poster. It's not known for how many days it has been there, but for one man who was waiting for the bus on Jan. 25, the poster was upsetting.

"I looked at it several times while I’ve been sitting here and it just gets to me more and more. I thought about tearing it down myself but it looks like somebody tried tearing it down and it didn’t work out so well for them," says Bobby Jones.

The sign is a simple 8x10 sheet of paper that seems to be glued to the glass of the bus stop.

"This is the first I’ve seen with adhesive spray like this, so it suggests it might be different players," says Hutchins. He says he usually sees homemade stickers and they are usually posted in the Uptown area.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a national organization that tracks hate groups, Montana has one of the highest percentages of hate groups per capita based on state population per 100,000 residents.

The 12 groups identified in a 2022 SPLC map of hate groups that espouse hate and antigovernment ideologies show group locations with a concentration in the northwest, but there is at least one group in the central and eastern part of Montana.

According to the SPLC, the group that is responsible for the latest sign postings in Butte has a statewide presence. It has ties to other white nationalist groups that have been prosecuted for hate crimes at the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and most recently, to a group that tried to disrupt a PRIDE parade in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho.

"Oh it’s really disappointing. Yeah, I can’t imagine how it feels for people of color; that’s why I try to take them down as quick as possible. I don’t want them to have to even consider what violence might come or anything like that," says Hutchinson.

It only took him a couple of minutes to remove the offensive signage, but he worries about those who might have encountered it and what they might think of his town.

"I'd like to think that it's the whole community that's trying to counter this and taking these down as soon as we find them. We want to make sure everyone feels welcome here," says Hutchins and he points to Butte history as a melting pot that welcomed different races and cultures at the turn of the century.

And Bobby Jones agrees. Before hopping on the bus he says he hopes he doesn't see another when he gets off at the next stop.

"I think it’s a race issue but it shouldn’t be like that. We should all be brothers and sisters and be one united team instead of separating people out," Jones said.

Hutchins says if members of the community encounter the signs carrying white supremacy slogans or symbols they can report the signs to the Montana Human Rights Network.

Officials from Butte-Silver Bow County were also contacted, and they said concerned citizens can reach outto the county and workers will remove the signage immediately.