Rape Culture, Missoula Democrats, and Criminalizing Poverty

by lizard

Mark Muir, former Chief of the Missoula PD, has taken an interesting position regarding the DoJ’s interest in what’s been happening (or not happening) at the Missoula County Attorney’s Office:

With support from the County Commissioners, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg has courageously chosen a bold and wise strategy in suing the United States Department of Justice for its abuses of power.

The anticipated result is nothing more than forcing them to play by the rules and to abide by the constitutional division of governmental powers. Asking a federal judge to put a stop to the bullying tactics of the U.S. Attorney General, his pitbulls in the Special Litigation Section and even Montana’s United States Attorney is not only the right thing, it is overdue.

Attorney General Eric Holder’s team of ultra-liberal, Washington, D.C., legal staff already won two unfair matches at the expense of Missoula taxpayers; their big government staffing increases gives them the resources to bully nearly any local institution into submission, indifferent to lack of proof.

Ultra-liberal? As opposed to who, Fred Van Valkenburg?

There are clearly some confusing dynamics at play in Missoula right now. I made it pretty clear how frustrated I am with Missoula Democrats in a post that I knew would probably ruffle a few feathers. State Representative Ellie Hill had this to say in the comments:

I fail to see what partisan politics has to do with what is going on in the County Attorney’s Office or in regard to the panhandling ordinances. It seems to me that there are many “Missoula Democrats” working on opposing sides of both issues. The panhandling ordinance didn’t get sent back to committee because Will Deschamps was looking out for equal protection and civil rights.

Rep. Hill has a point—a Democrat-dominated city council vote sent the solicitation ordinances back to committee—but we wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Adam Hertz (a conservative) hadn’t moved to reconsider the amendments to avoid a lawsuit, and Missoula wouldn’t be facing a lawsuit if progressive Caitlin Copple didn’t sponsor these amendments in the first place.

I find it particularly distasteful that Copple used the safety of women to justify criminalizing sitting on sidewalks. When these ordinances were first debated and passed, Ellie Hill was the director of the Poverello Center. This Missoula Red Tape post features Hill’s opinion of the original ordinances:

Pov director Ellie Hill said the nonprofit supports defining inappropriate behaviors and creating consequences for those actions. That’s as long as the rules in the ordinance* apply as equally to the aggressive Girl Scout cookie seller as they do to a belligerent old dude.

But Hill said the Pov isn’t going to get behind the ordinance* that bans sleeping or snoozing on streets and sidewalks. She said one Pov supporter called her and wanted to remind her of the story of the Good Samaritan. That good guy was helping the person on the streets — not slapping him with a misdemeanor as the ordinance proposes.

“To me, that’s the very definition of criminalizing poverty,” Hill said. “It’s wrong. How can you provide criminal consequences for being poor? Or having nowhere else to sit? Or nowhere else to sleep at night?”

I agree. But try telling that to a progressive LGBT advocate who describes a transient chasing a pregnant woman to her car as the reason to ban sitting on sidewalks downtown.

We are not going to make it safer for women in Missoula by targeting homeless people or getting rid of enablers of rape culture like Fred Van Valkenburg. Rape culture is insidious, and non-partisan.

As a reminder of that latter point, I strongly encourage everyone to read 4&20 contributor Patrick Duganz’s take on what Pat Williams said to the New York Times nearly 2 years ago regarding the University of Montana’s part in the rape scandal:

“I’m very sorrowful one of the premier universities in the Rockies has been scandalized by a few knuckleheaded students,” said Pat Williams, a former United States congressman and a member of Montana’s Board of Regents. “The football team has been terribly hurt by this.”

With friends like Fred and Pat, who needs Deschamps?


  1. Hear, hear. Well put.

  2. Nic

    If anyone would like to sign a petition to Congress to include gender as a protected category under federal hate crime laws, so that rape/sexual assault can be prosecuted at the federal level, you can sign and share here: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/include-rapesexual-assault.fb75?source=c.fb&r_by=663789

    • Thanks Nic!

  1. 1 Addressing Malfeasance: Republican Ravalli County versus Democratic Missoula County | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] has had two posts now calling out local democrats – Thanks for Nothing, Democrats and Rape Culture, Missoula Democrats, and Criminalizing Poverty – on their lack of acting with principles most often associated with the Democratic […]




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