I got this note from a local, politically active friend:
All three Missoula County Commissioners told me that they are getting scary hate emails because of their willingness to accept Syrian refugees. I suppose that the Mayor and City Council members may have got them also.
Is this true? I asked members of the council and the mayor to confirm. Here’s one councilor:
I have been receiving threatening emails and phone calls for over a month to the point where I no longer answer my telephone from unknown numbers. I did save one gem of a voice mail with a lot of C words.
My home address was published on a hate website and a meme with my address was shared around the internet.
Here’s an email the mayor and council members received:
F**K YOU! You want to bring enemy combatants into MY state?!! F**k you treasonous c**ks**kers!
What a great way to elevate the debate. A call to the county also verified my friend’s tip. The commissioners have received some equally cruel emails. A sampling:
They have children in litters and will strain our resources- not to mention change our communities and culture! This is our country and I will fight to keep these people out. You were not elected to allow this to happen. If you allow it, I will do everything in my power to get you thrown out of your job.
The moment one girl gets raped because you brought in these people you should be held accountable along with the person who did the crime … I, for one, do not want them here.
(So as not to exacerbate the hate, I won’t identify the friend who brought this to my attention; or the councilmen or women, or commissioners, who responded to my queries.)
What sparked this nastiness was a simple letter of support that was written by the commissioners and members of council for a refugee advocacy group. The Missoula Independent has details on the letter. The group, called Soft Landing, is trying to open a resettlement agency here with the goal of relocating up to 100 refugees a year in the Missoula area.
While supportive, Mayor Engen said at The State of The Community forum that he doesn’t believe Missoula is a likely landing spot for many of them simply based on geography.
“I’d be surprised if it were 100 a year,” he told the Indy, “but if it were, I think we can handle a richer tapestry here.”
An anti-refugee rally at the Missoula County Courthouse last week fanned the flames, as the Missoulian reports. For example, one comment on the refugees from a rally participant, “They rape, kill, destroy.”
There is an upside to this story. While the mayor’s office confirms some nasty emails and acrimony at council meetings, response to refugee resettlement in the Missoula Valley has been overwhelmingly supportive. As one councilor put it:
To be clear, the feedback I have gotten is about 40 to 1 in favor of refugees. It’s just that opponents are so angry and aggressive that they feel bigger and louder than they actually are.
I’m guessing the 40:1 ratio might be a little high and I know the county emails are a much closer ratio, for and against. Your elected officials appreciate your support on the refugee debate. Tell them to keep up the good work.