Earlier this month, Great Falls held its annual 4th of July parade. As usual, Republicans, Democrats, and many individual candidates marched with signs vying for votes and support. A new message was present this year as well- a demand for Reproductive Rights. Around 50 Great Falls citizens carried Pro-Choice signs and peacefully marched to demand bodily autonomy. Unlike the graphic and misleading Pro-Life signs showing dead babies, the Democrats kept it classy. Signs did not contain graphic images or profanity.
Unsurprisingly, E-City beat took offense to this peaceful demonstration. But what exactly IS E-city beat? Wonderful question. It’s an extremist political blog that likes to pretend it’s legitimate journalism. Run by Phil Faccenda, local architect and hatemonger, and Rick Tryon. E-City Beat constantly harasses both public figures and private citizens alike. This objectionable behavior is made more concerning considering one of the extremists behind the keyboard, Rick Tryon, is also a city commissioner. In response to the parade demonstration, they published a tenuous argument that the parade was not an appropriate venue to protest. Perhaps Phil and Rick need a reminder of American history? The 4 th of July celebrates the United States’ independence from Britain. Facing unfair conditions from their government, revolutionaries first launched a protest (remember the Boston Tea Party?) before later declaring Independence. The celebration itself honors fighting back against government tyranny. Peacefully exercising our 1 st Amendment right seems a befitting tribute indeed to the ideology of Freedom.
(Please note that July 4 th itself is problematic, ignoring both Indigenous Genocide, slavery, and the alarming and outdated definition of who our Founding Fathers considered a person. But that discussion merits a much longer article. Today we’re just gonna cover the blatant hypocrisy of anti-protest sentiments).
Far more questionable than any protest is the conduct of E City Beat in both their writing and their online response to pushback. After attempting to downplay the number of participants, claiming only a dozen or so were present, E City was quick to block and delete comments from anyone that disagreed with them. In typical bully fashion, E City Beat’s authors continually target Great Falls citizens, but whine and cry when anyone calls them out on it.
These scared little men are becoming increasingly fragile. Although many comments were indeed about the content of the article, E City posted the included screenshot threatening permanent bans for those that disagree with them. Quite funny, considering the blogs history of targeting both public figures and private citizens alike and engaging in “childish” name-calling themselves.
In honor of the growing citizenry finding themselves blocked by Phil Faccenda and Rick Tryon, we’re starting a new re-occurring segment. We at WTF would never encourage the kind of bullying we see from right-wing hate blogs. However, if you’ve made a perfectly valid comment and it got you blocked, be sure to screenshot, and message for the chance to receive your own “I pissed off ECB” Club Member pin. Haven’t been blocked but would like to share your experience or opinion of E City Beat with us? Hit us up! You could be featured on “E- City Beat Watch.”
As the marchers walked on the hot pavement, loud chants of “my body, my choice,” and cheers filled the air. Over fifty pro-choice protestors marched in the Great Falls’ 4th of July parade alongside the Cascade County Democrats.
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States overturned the privacy protections established by Roe v. Wade. Upending nearly 50 years of abortion protections, the issue was thrown back to the states. In Great Falls, multiple pro-choice grassroots groups have sprung up. Nearly daily protests have taken place on 10th Ave. South and the Central Ave. West Bridge. The people are outraged, as they should be!
While abortion is still legal in Montana, the outcome of the upcoming 2022 elections will determine the fate of abortion rights in our state.
Republicans have two routes to weaken and undermine Montana’s Constitution. And let’s be clear, they are working hard on both routes to remove our bodily autonomy.
Route #1:Gain a supermajority in the Montana Legislature
If the legal challenges don’t go their way, Republicans are counting on a gaining enough legislative seats in the upcoming election to attempt revising our Montana Constitution. They want to remove the inconvenient elements, like our rights to privacy, rights to a clean and healthful environment and a guarantee of equality of education opportunity to all. (How horrible! A right to individual privacy not infringed by the government!)
Route #2:Undermine and pack the Montana Supreme Court with Extreme Conservatives
Montana Republicans have been attacking the independence of the Montana Supreme Court in preparation for packing the court with judges friendly to their unconstitutional legislative agenda. Our current, incumbent Montana Supreme Court Justices (Ingrid Gustafson and Jim Rice) respect the separation of branches of government and our Montana Constitution. Republicans seem to be saying, “let’s throw judicial independence out the window” as they go all in on partisan politics in these judicial races. Who needs separate branches of government, amirite? Republicans are supporting two conservative judicial candidates to change the make-up of the Montana Supreme Court. With a more conservative slanted court, Montana Republicans hope their anti-abortion laws will win future legal challenges.
Rights to privacy and reproductive freedoms won’t stay in place in Montana if more conservatives are elected in judicial positions and legislative roles. The good news is, we have four months to win elections and help preserve our rights to our own bodies. Let’s seize our chance while we still have one to protect our freedoms.
[Full Disclosure: I have helped organize two of the Great Falls pro-choice protests and marched in the 4th of July parade alongside the pro-choice group].
It was interesting to read recent news coverage of the protests in Great falls responding to the Dobbs decision allowing states to ban abortion. Let’s start with a very simple fact. There is a long history of violence and intimidation around the abortion debate in this country. Virtually all that violence comes from the so-called right-to-life movement.
The Great Falls Tribune interviewed Liana Karlin, President of the Montana Chapter of the Right to Life for its story. Karlin complained that anti-abortion activists fear for their safety and that her national organization is now advising people to avoid “pro-choice provocations.” She concluded by alleging that Pro-Choice groups have a propensity for violence. “Years ago, I remember the Right to Life people being blamed for setting fires and doing whatnot,” Karlin said. “Most of the time they found out in the end, it was the Pro-Choice or Pro-Abortion people who were actually doing those things so we could be blamed.” To its credit the Trib pointed out that it was unaware of incidents of pro-choice advocates being identified as arsonists or agent provocateurs. But still, her big lie hangs in the air like Trump’s allegations of election fraud.
So, let’s recount just a few highlights of the anti-abortion movement’s violence. In March of 1993 Dr David Gunn, a physician who performed abortions, was murdered by a man who yelled, “don’t kill any more babies” right before shooting Dr Gunn in the back with a shot gun. In the late 1990’s a series of bombings killed 2 people and injured hundreds of others. The perpetrator, Eric Robert Rudolf, said his motivation was “abominable sanctioning of abortion on demand.” Between 1993 and 2016 anti-choice zealots murdered 11 people including doctors, clinic employees, a clinic escort, a security guard, and a police officer. There were 26 attempted murders in the same period.
Here in Montana anti-abortion protesters routinely surrounded clinics. Women attempting to use healthcare services were threatened and harassed by anti-abortion activists. Many people volunteered to escort them through the protest lines to assure women were able to access healthcare services. It was an ugly scene.
In addition, clinics in Montana have been routinely targeted for vandalism and arson. In 2014 All Families Healthcare, a family medicine and reproductive health-care facility in Kalispell, was broken into and severely damaged resulting in the clinic closing. Then there is the prolonged harassment of Dr Susan Wicklund who was providing health care services including abortions in Livingston. Wicklund was followed, threatened, and harassed. Her home was broken into, and her daughter had to be taken to school by a police escort. From 1993 to 1994, anti-choice activist Richard T. Andrews set fire to clinics in several states including clinics in Helena, Missoula and Kalispell.
While all this activity was illegal and outside the political process, the anti-abortion movement was busily organizing in the electoral arena. Orchestrating purges within the Republican Party, recruiting candidates, forming political action committees, and building coalitions. And the largest constituency of that effort was evangelical Christians and the issue that motivated them more than anything else has been abortion. After decades of political organizing through groups like the Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, National Right to Life and the Federalist Society the anti-abortion movement has been the dominant force in the Republican Party and captured the presidency of Donald Trump, the United States Supreme Court, the US Senate and dominates the Congress.
More Extreme Activists Ride Anti-Abortions Coat Tails
It is no wonder that elements of the American hard right have gravitated to the power and energy that the anti-abortion movement has injected into our social fabric. Whether or not they care about abortion, they are astute enough to use the abortion controversy to promote their own agenda, which has historically focused more on issues like race and immigration, to recruit new members.
So, here in Great Falls it is not surprising to see hard right activists capitalizing on this controversy. Caleb Oriet, Director of the Montana Chapter of the American Populist Union, a home schooler from Highwood who has graduated into right-wing activism was quoted in the Tribune story. The Tribune published a picture of Oriet standing on a corner in front of Planned Parenthood holding an American flag over his shoulder and gun on his hip. He told the reporter that the American Populist Union is a conservative group that encourages young people to take a more active role in public policy. Like Karlin of Montana Right to Life, he said that pro-choice advocates have been responsible for violence, referencing a group called Jane’s Revenge, allegedly a group of pro-choice advocates engaging in violent acts across the country (See quote).
Jane’s Revenge emerged this spring following the leaking of the Supreme Court’s proposed
decision on Roe v Wade. It is an anonymous blog which publishes pieces calling for retaliation
against abortion opponents. It apparently has no organizational structure or public face. The blog
has claimed credit for some destruction of property directed at abortion foe facilities. National
pro-choice groups and active abortion rights supporters have refused to even acknowledge Jane’s
Revenge let alone endorse its actions and rhetoric. But anti-choice activists are using it as a straw
man to characterize the pro-choice movement similar to the far right’s creation of Antifa to
marginalize anti-racist activism. The pro-choice movement’s lack of support for Jane’s Revenge
stands in stark contrast to the anti-abortion movement’s wink and nod to the groups and
individuals behind clinic violence.
Box on Jane’s Revent
Oriet’s group, the American Populist Union, views itself as a Generation Z (born between 1997and 2012) conservative vanguard patterned on the Goyper movement which emerged in 2019. Both the Goypers and the American Populist Union announced themselves at the conservative student conference, Turning Point USA, held in Florida, the Goypers in 2019 and the American Populist Union in 2021. Right wing monitoring group, Political Research Associates, describes the American Populist Union as, “college-age or younger leaders, followers, and movement personalities (who) slander feminism and movements for LGBTQ rights and visibility as degenerate, argue for a moratorium on all immigration and a non- interventionist foreign policy, and view themselves as victimized by ‘anti-White hatred’ endemic across popular culture.”
The story of the Great Falls far-right anti-abortion movement could have been any corner of the U.S. From the extremes like the American Populist Union, to the relentless activism of Right to Life Montana, to the GOP elected officials representing the Electric City – the march to the hard right and away from democracy is on.