Missoula became a center of the anti-refugee settlement movement as more than 100 people from across the state and Idaho took to the snow-lined sidewalk in front of the Missoula County Courthouse to decry what they see as a national threat.
Missoulian “Right now, we’re locked in a battle to protect our security, to protect our country,” said organizer Jim Buterbaugh of Whitehall. “We are fighting the system, trying to head this thing off at the pass.”
Dubbed the “American Security Rally,” Buterbaugh expressed amazement at the turnout. “I’ve had rallies several other times, and I didn’t have anybody show up but my family and a few other people,” he said.
This one struck a chord when Buterbaugh put up a “Call to Action” Facebook site 10 days ago. Within four days, he said, it had generated some 1,500 invitations. “I figured I’m going to actually have to do something here,” he said.
Buterbaugh said he was looking at “all this crap going on” about Soft Landing Missoula organizing to help refugees from the Syrian crisis relocate to Missoula.
He was spurred, too, by a letter dated Jan. 13 from Missoula County commissioners to the U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. It was in support of Soft Landing’s quest to help resettling “approximately 100 refugees per year” through the International Rescue Committee’s Reception and Placement program.
“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,” said co-founder Mary Poole. “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.”