Jim Buterbaugh is pissed off.
Jim is from Whitehall, Montana, a sprawling metropolis of 1,038 residents. Whitehall is about a two hour car ride from Missoula, where community organizers calling themselves “Soft Landing” have lobbied to resettle around 100 refugees per year through the International Rescue Committee’s Reception and Placement Program.
That effort started last September in Mary Poole’s living room where "about 10 mothers" decided they wanted to welcome 10 refugee families to Missoula after seeing the indelible image of 2-year-old Aylan Kurdi's lifeless body washed ashore in Turkey.
Unlike some whose sympathy for Mid-East refugees waned in the wake of the Paris Attacks, Soft Landing didn't waver. "Fear will not replace the compassion and openness that Missoula has proven itself to value, and we will not assist ISIS in their mission to intimidate and inspire terror," Poole said in November.
That, Jim Buterbaugh says, is "a bunch of crap."
Buterbaugh has tried to organize mass protests before, but it turns out he's not much of a promoter. This time around however, he managed to pique people's interest. Last week, Jim put up what he called a "Call to Action" post on Facebook. As The Missoulian writes, "within four days, it had generated some 1,500 invitations."
“Right now, we’re locked in a battle to protect our security, to protect our country,” Buterbaugh proclaims. “We are fighting the system, trying to head this thing off at the pass.”
"This thing" is apparently a reference to the effort to resettle refugees, something Jim isn't too keen on.
The rally began at 10 a.m. As you can see, some folks aren't in a welcoming mood:
(Dee and John Gibney - seated - who "obviously aren't racists")
Some, like Belgian immigrant Caroline Solomon who, along with 27 others, came on a bus to lend their support to the rally, struck a conciliatory tone. “I would make it clear we are not against immigrants,” she said. “We’re not against legal and legitimate refugees. Some have a right and should be coming into our country. The thing that we are against is, we are against and have a problem with unvetted refugees and those who are actually using ... loopholes to bring the jihadists in."
Others were less PC. “This is an invasion." Brad Trun of Seeley Lake seethed. "It’s a government-sponsored invasion."
(Tom Wing, who can't understand why refugees don't "stay in their country and fight")
For their part, Brothers Bob and Steve Cabaniss (who drove in from Idaho) don't understand why Buterbaugh doesn't just storm city hall. “Enough of us went to the town council meeting and we shut him down right there,” Bob Cabaniss said, referencing two hearings in Sandpoint, Idaho where new mayor Shelby Rognstad withdrew a proposal for a refugee shelter amid a public outcry. "So if you guys show up, you can shut it down," Bob added.
The man holding the "they rape, kill, destroy" sign in the image shown above is one John Gibney who "obviously" isn't a racist. "Obviously, I'm not a racist. My wife is not a racist," Gibney told The Missoulian, which notes that the Gibneys have two adopted Korean children.
Here's what "obviously not a racist" John had to say about The White House and the plan to resettle refugees from the Mid-East:
“There is a legal way of doing things, an orderly way of doing things. There has been since this country was founded. There’s a right way and they’re doing it the wrong way, and our black Muslim president is trying to bring this country down. And he’s doing a very good job with all of his lapdogs.”
For their part, Soft Landing decided not to hold a counter rally, which is too bad because as we've seen in Germany, dueling rallies can be all kinds of fun. Here's the statement from Mary Poole:
"We're saddened to see a group that's not from our community come in to tell us we shouldn't help people fleeing from violence. Compassion is a Missoula value, Missoula successfully took in refugees for decades, and we know that once again our community will overcome the politics of fear in order to provide safe haven for war-town families."
So there you have it. An increasingly divisive atmosphere near America's heartland.