BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - A Helena-based nonprofit is condemning two upcoming local events for their alleged ties to militia groups and fundamentalist Christians.
Rage Against the State, a group organized by Roger Roots, the Libertarian candidate for state auditor, will hold a “tent revival” at Sacajawea Park in Livingston on Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. The group will then hold an event at Lewis and Clark Park in Belgrade from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday.
A third event is set for the Education Station in Whitehall on Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m., t he Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported.
The Montana Human Rights Network released a report on Thursday that called the three events an “anti-democratic roadshow.” The nonprofit said it believes the three events are an attempt to exploit anger over the government restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Militia and some groups of Christian fundamentalists have been trying to harness the genuine fear and hardship in our communities during the pandemic to elevate their profiles, recruit members and expand their influence,” the report said. “This roadshow is nothing but an effort to stoke resentment and direct it at the public officials who are trying to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Travis McAdam, with the Montana Human Rights Network, said the three events could undermine the government response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“With Montana’s COVID-19 numbers rising again, the last thing we need are events featuring speakers who will, no doubt, rail against public health measures as affronts to freedom,” McAdam said. “We should be raging against the spread of the virus, not heeding empty calls to patriotism that put more people in jeopardy.”
Rage Against the State didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Rage Against the State’s website says the group includes members of all political parties who are committed to liberty, shrinking governments’ budgets and reducing taxes. Everyone is welcome to the three upcoming events, according to the group’s Facebook page.
Rage Against the State describes itself as a group of people who are “united in our rage against any state that would have us live in a society where even the greatest entertainments are privileges granted to us by men who would rule us rather than serve us as our founding fathers decreed.”
Several candidates running for statewide and local offices in November are among the speakers at the three events.
Roger Roots, of Livingston, has run for several political offices over the years. He is a convicted felon and served as a volunteer paralegal for Ryan Bundy, one of 26 people who were indicted on federal conspiracy charges related to an armed takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, according to the Montana Standard.
Nick Ramlow, another state legislative candidate, will also speak. He lives in Kalispell and is running for House District 7. In 2012, he was charged with felony assault with a weapon after pulling a gun on someone in a Bozeman alley. In April, he filed a lawsuit arguing that Gov. Steve Bullock didn’t have the authority to issue a statewide stay-at-home order to limit the spread of COVID-19, according to the Daily Inter Lake.
John Lamb, a Libertarian candidate for a state Senate seat covering Madison, Beaverhead and Silver Bow counties, is listed as another event speaker. His candidacy is centered on limiting government, protecting individual rights and abolishing property taxes. He refers to himself as “The Last Free Man” on social media and has posted videos from outside the courthouses at the Bundy trials.
Other speakers also have connections to the Bundy family.
Ryan Payne, of Belgrade, directed militia efforts during the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. He served three years in prison for his role in the takeover. In May, a judge ended his federal supervision early.
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