WHITEFISH, Mont. (CN) – In the 1980s, north Idaho was known as one of the breeding grounds of white nationalism in America.
The Aryan Nations set up its world headquarters in Hayden, Idaho, but would later fold its Idaho operation after it went bankrupt in the early 2000s.
Not far away in Whitefish, Montana, this resort town is taking steps to ensure that it does not become associated with white nationalism.
This week, the Whitefish City Council endorsed a proclamation that said it does not support the efforts of groups like Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute. Spencer is the founder and director of the National Policy Institute and is a part-time resident of Whitefish.
Spencer and his connection to Whitefish have come to light in recent weeks as the “alt-right” movement gains momentum. “Alt-right” is the term for a movement that espouses an ideology that’s a mix of racism and white nationalism. The movement has gained in popularity since Donald Trump’s election as president. According to Spencer’s National Policy Institute web site, the organization is dedicated to the “heritage, identity and future” of people of European descent in the United States and around the world.
Whitefish doesn’t want anything to do with those values.
“The city of Whitefish repudiates the ideas and ideology of the founder of the so-called alt-right as a direct affront to our community’s core values and principles,” Whitefish mayor John Muhlfeld said at the Dec. 5 City Council meeting. “The city of Whitefish rejects racism and bigotry in all its forms and expressions. The city of Whitefish will continue to honor its responsibility to promote tolerance, nondiscrimination and diversity within our community.”
Muhlfeld, in his second term as mayor, said, “We are offended by these extreme ideologies having any connection to our town. Compassion, open-mindedness, acceptance and kindness are values esteemed by our community. As mayor, let me assure you – everyone is welcome in Whitefish.”
Whitefish is a popular year-round destination. The town is close to Glacier National Park and is home to Whitefish Mountain Resort, a ski and summer resort.
The Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau is helping put out the message that Whitefish is a diverse, tolerant town. When the Aryan Nations were in operation in Hayden, Idaho, members would goose-step in civic parades in nearby Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, another popular resort town. Whitefish doesn’t want to see that happen in Montana.
“It is important for us to get the message out that everyone is welcome in Whitefish,” Lisa Jones, Whitefish visitor bureau representative, said. “We want to take a definitive stand to let the world know that these extreme views do not represent who we are as a community. In fact, we are known for our friendliness and hospitality.”
Southern Poverty Law Center lists the National Policy Institute as one of the four leading national hate groups.