Residents Call for Kalispell Response System to Discriminatory Acts

Locals ask city officials to form more coordinated response network to discriminatory vandalism and behavior

By Maggie Dresser
The Community Spirit Monument sign as seen on Dec. 9, 2019. The the sign was vandalized with a spray-painted swastikas around Thanksgiving. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Following vandalism at the Community Spirit Monument in Woodland Park in Kalispell sometime before Thanksgiving, community members are pushing for a stronger response system from Kalispell city officials.

Flathead Valley residents attended the city council meeting on Monday, Dec. 2 to address their concerns about the most recent vandalism, a spray-painted swastika on a sign.

Cherilyn DeVries of Love Lives Here Flathead, a Montana Human Rights Network affiliate, suggested that Kalispell create a communication response network to address future acts of vandalism and discriminatory behavior in the city.

“We want to create a positive community response,” she said.

DeVries offered assistance in facilitating repairs at Woodland Park, emphasizing that the area will be a consistent vandalism target if it remains damaged. She also suggested the city create a communication network between police, city officials and businesses to decide the most appropriate response.

“We have a system like this in Whitefish that we built after the troll storm three years ago,” DeVries said. “That served us extremely well to know how to respond.”

The Community Spirit Monument was previously vandalized in September, and anti-sematic literature was distributed in Kalispell earlier this fall as well, DeVries said. She says Love Lives Here even helped a family who left the state because of a white supremacist neighbor.

Rabbi Francine Roston of the Glacier Jewish Community also expressed her concern over the recent vandalism and its message.

“As I meet with Jewish people across the valley, there’s a growing sense of vulnerability,” Roston said. “The Jewish community does not feel safe meeting for worship or celebration without hiring armed security guards.”

Roston noted that the Flathead community must unite like it has in the past to address the spread of hate in the valley.

“There’s an ongoing flow of white supremacist activity that tends to be minimized and discounted as meaningless, harmless and isolated events,” she said. “The activity that we’ve witnessed over the last months and years must be understood as a trend.”

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