Identity Evropa

A sign from Identity Evropa, a white nationalist organization, is placed beside the doorway to the Montana Veteran Affairs Division office in the basement of the Education Building on the campus of Montana State University Billings on Wednesday.

Last week, we thought it couldn't get much worse. 

The racist group, Identity Evropa, which bills itself as a benign cadre of individuals who care about "white culture" decided to plaster two higher education campuses with posters depicting Uncle Sam, thanking veterans. 

Except Uncle Sam was wearing an "Identity Evropa" logo on his jacket, as if the beloved icon of our country is a proud supporter of a group that seeks to recognize only those of European ancestry as legitimate Americans.

Mixing something as powerful patriotism and racism is sickening. Identity Evropa stands squarely against everything that is America. Veterans need our support and thanks, but its warriors can do without the gratitude from a bunch of nameless, faceless racists who are the antithesis of the type of selfless bravery we see daily from our men and women in the Armed Service.

Then on Wednesday and Thanksgiving some people on the Montana State University Billings campus started receiving pre-recorded phone calls espousing racist views. 

As if mixing patriotism and racism wasn't bad enough, now racism apparently comes via robocall. 

MSUB Chancellor Dan Edelman denounced the calls and didn't name the group behind it because he feared giving them recognition may only give the attention the group deserves. 

While we agree, we would also point out the sneaky way these posters appeared and the anonymous, automated nature of the calls proves just what kind of groups are trying to infiltrate our community. They are hiding in the shadows because they realize their ideas are extreme and not welcomed in this community. While Billings and Montana in general is accepting of a diversity of people and opinions, in no way do we encourage tearing down other races, cultures or beliefs. Instead, like all Montanans, we're strong enough and stubborn enough in our beliefs to express them plainly and openly, not hidden behind some automated dialing service.

We are the town that proudly started the "Not In Our Town" movement, which rallied folks together to say it would not tolerate bigotry, violence or racism in our community. Once again, that same ugly yet familiar threat has confronted us, and we must come together and stand against it.

While we share Edelman's concern that giving the groups too much attention is tantamount to free advertising, we're equally concerned that just ignoring these shocking messages would lead groups to believe we'll tolerate the behavior. Worse yet, we don't want anyone looking in at Billings to believe this is the type of place where the residents sympathize with bigotry and hatred. 

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Folks who would leave posters or pay for robo-calling refuse to sign their names to their beliefs or admit they're a part of these organizations that have been labeled "hate groups" and "racist," are bullies and cowards. But that's always been the case since groups like that have started — originally they needed robes and hoods, today they need auto-dialers. 

We'd take this opportunity to remind folks that every day on this page, The Billings Gazette Editorial Board, the letter writers and guest columnists sign their names to their beliefs. It's time these anonymous thugs do the same.

As for the calls, we can't help but wonder if this out-of-state group that placed the calls knew about Montana's strict robocalling rule. Because Montana's Constitution guarantees the right of privacy, we can't help but think that unwanted bigoted calls were undoubtedly a violation of that. We would urge the Montana Attorney General's office to look into the calls, and see if the group making them violated state law. 

This cannot be a matter of our community reveling in its past — back to a time when we purged our town of racism by uniting together. This is about our present and future: We must decide how to respond — with indifference or action — in order to make this the kind of place that is welcoming, diverse and safe.  

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