A free community block party is planned for Saturday, Jan. 7 in response to negative attention an anti-Semitic blog has brought to Whitefish.
The event, Love Not Hate, is set to run from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Central Avenue between Depot Park and the O’Shaughnessy Center. It will feature live music, speakers, free food and beverages.
Friends Jessica Laferriere and Dominica Cleveras began organizing the event after they said they were feeling discouraged by increasing news coverage of white supremacists groups and a white-nationalist leader involving Whitefish.
“The Flathead Valley was getting attention for being a place where white supremacists are active and that doesn’t represent what is actually happening here,” Laferriere said. “We wanted to do something as a show of solidarity and show that this is a place of acceptance.”
Members of the neo-Nazi blog the Daily Stormer in recent weeks posted pictures, names and addresses of some local members of the Jewish community along with messages calling followers to “take action” against them. The online posts urged its followers to defend Sherry Spencer, mother of white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, who claimed she received threats to sell her downtown Whitefish building.
In a press release, Laferriere and Cleveras say they hope the Saturday event is a “community-wide celebration of diversity and acceptance of all people regardless of their ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender and gender identification, physical abilities and socio-economic status.”
Laferriere said early on they expected about 150 people to attend the event, but now believe that many more will actually participate.
“This event has helped us recognize that so many people believe in acceptance and the extremists groups are really in the minority,” she said. “Organizing this event has given us a good feeling about where we live.”
Renowned Blackfeet singer and storyteller Jack Gladstone will headline the event. Drummer Mariah Gladstone, guitarist Jeremy Quick, singer Halladay Quist and students from Halau Ka Waikahe Lani Malie hula school will also perform. Whitefish Deputy Mayor Richard Hildner, Mennonite pastor Jeryl Hollinger, Abbie Shelter director Hillary Shaw, and Navajo artist Andrea Castillo are set to address the crowd.
The Kalispell ImagineIF library will provide a kid’s area with toys for children attending.
The event is co-sponsored by the nonprofit group Love Lives Here, the Montana Human Rights Network, several local businesses, and private donors.
The event has received financial support from a GoFundMe campaign. The event’s page is still accepting donations at www.gofundme.com/lovenothate-whitefish.
For more information about the event, visit the Facebook event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/169186313551133/