We Are Missoula, Stand Up… Speak OUT! A Community Responds to Hate Crimes

by Jamee Greer

Roughly three hundred Missoulians came together for We Are Missoula, a rally in response to the recent anti-gay violence here in the Garden City. Monday’s rally began at five, and by 5:01 the L-shaped floor of my favorite establishment, the Badlander, began to fill with a perfect cross-section of Missoula.

Speakers from the political realm included Senators Christine Kaufman and Dave Wanzenried, Representative Michele Reinhart (an honest roll-model for young Montanans), Mayor Engen and County Commissioner Jean Curtiss… and statements were read from Montana Senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, as well as State Representative Diane Sands, who wasn’t able to make the event but wanted to show her continuing support for civil rights. Members of the Missoula Police Department, which has made amazing progress in working effectively and openly with the city’s queer community, made rounds through the crowd offering hugs of support and reminding folks of the importance in reporting every act of violence. Mayor Engen was first to take the stage, urging survivors to discuss their stories—and reminding the attackers that hate is not welcome in our town.

Many of the speakers centered on the importance of hate crimes legislation inclusive of gender identity and sexual orientation, something the Montana Legislature has been unable to pass despite efforts back into the early nineties.

Statements from both Montana Senators were read:

(Senator Tester’s statement was kept short and sweet)

In Montana, personal freedom isn’t a luxury. It’s a God-given right. Here—and any place where personal freedom and privacy are sacred—there’s no place for violence spurred on by hate or fear.

Know that I support legislation making attacks like these hate crimes. I’ve done it before. And I’ll do it again.

Montanans deserve no less. They see good in each other, do good for each other and respect each other despite their differences. That’s the Montana way.

(…and from Senator Baucus)

I’m sorry I can’t be with you in person, but I applaud your efforts. As Montanans and Americans, we value freedom and individual liberties. We respect those who have differing views, and we know that personal freedom and privacy is paramount.

That’s why I’ve supported hate crimes legislation in the Congress. And that’s why I stand with you today to make sure that no Montanan has to live in fear.

Jess Keith, a survivor of the attacks on November 4th, took the brave and courageous step of speaking before the crowd. She was introduced by her friend, Melissa Darnell, who made a trip up to Missoula for the rally from California. Reading her poem to the attackers, An Open Letter, Melissa thanked them for igniting a passion to fight such injustice, ending with:

to you I say:

your hate
your fear
your bigotry
your violence

empowers me
energizes me
encourages me
ignites me

and I am not alone.


and that is much

than the f o u r
of you

(the piece is available in entirety on her blog.)

As a queer Montanan, I can’t begin to express the feeling of solidarity and support I felt standing with my fellow Missoulians. People were shocked. They were frightened. And they were full of resolve to make a difference in the lives of others they hardly knew anything about. There is still so much to be said of that evening, and so much more to be done in our struggle for civil rights. But I’ll end my first post on 4and20 with one realization from the rally,

I am not alone.

  1. Great piece Jamee!

    I’m curious, did you ask Denny for any comment?

  2. Jamee Greer

    Rep. Rehberg’s office was contacted via phone the same day as Sens. Baucus and Tester.

    Rep. Rehberg sent letters to constituents full of “special rights” rhetoric when they voiced concerns regarding hate crimes and employment discrimination legislation.

    Just a tip to all folks in the political world: but when folks are fighting for civil rights, when we’re fighting for legislation that will help us to BE and FEEL safer while walking downtown at night, and you tell us we’re looking for “special rights” – well, it just pisses us all off!

    Sorry to vent, jhwygirl. But I had to! Blogging might be a good way for me to de-stress! ;)

  3. Jedediah Redman

    Nothing worries homophobes more than a pissed off queer…

  4. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

    DAMN, Jed. I can’t believe you SAID that! To the showers with you, the golden showers! Seriously though, Jed, in all the years I’ve known you, you’ve never taken a cheap shot at an underdog. Are you a homophobe? You CAN’T be.

  5. I think Jed was actually praising pissed-off queers.

  6. Jamee Greer

    I’m so cringing right now, y’all have no idea.

  7. Jedediah Redman

    No, Jay, I wasn’t praising pissed-off queers; but I was dsefinitely dissing homophobes of every kind. Unfortunately I don’t think they are very worried about any reaction from the homosexual community; because I think the majority of Montanans are taking that whatever! attitude about the whole issue.
    When the Montana’s libertarians quit shrugging off homophobia, is when homophobes will begin to worry.

    Ol’ ratchet has been trying to find a chink in ol’ jed’s armor for a long time now; but usually by this time on a Sunday night he is too wasted on bad quality Vitalis to make much sense at all…

  8. As far as I can tell, Montana libertarians are interested only in property rights, esp. that of big corporations.

  9. Jamee Greer

    My understanding of libertarianism is that it’s “live and let live” – but when it comes to homosexuality, well, that’s another story.

  10. Jedediah Redman

    So Libertarians would have us all believe; but in this state at least I think they would pretty much have us live as God ordained or not live at all…

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