Thursday, April 13, 2000 Missoulian Editorial Clint Cain, a Bozeman-area rancher and retired miner, wants to stick his finger in the eye of the federal government, and wants to come to Libby to do it.

In a story in Wednesday's paper, Cain said he's tired of environmental rules, taxes, NAFTA, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management ­ anything and everything having to do with federal government.

Some Libby residents, including Republican state Rep. Scott Orr, scheduled an anti-government rally for Saturday. Business owners, ministers, law-enforcement officers, city leaders, neighbors and friends spoke out against the idea, in part because organizers used such ugly and threatening language on flyers.

Pressured, the organizers called off the rally.

But Cain plans to come anyway, even without an invitation.

"We still have the right to assemble," he said. And he's right, of course. Cain said he expects hundreds of protesters to come, and they're "not just crazies," he said. "We're pretty well-off, middle class, you know, not some rabble. We ain't no kooks, either. We're taxpayers."

Cain's words aren't reassuring at all. In fact, they reflect just the kind of attitude and venom that residents in Libby (and lots of other towns) resent and dread.

Libby must feel vulnerable. It is so close to pockets of anti-government discontent and hatred, with Aryan organizations in Idaho and militia members in Noxon. Few people want members of those groups marching in their streets, whether legal or not.

And the community has important ties to federal programs that help and support people via employment, school funding, medical care and more. Hundreds of Libby families are relying on federal aid to help test for asbestos-related health problems linked to a now-closed vermiculite mine there.

True, malcontents do have the right to gather. But why go someplace where the welcoming mat is rolled up?

Here's a suggestion: Clint Cain should organize his own rally, in his own back yard ­ Bozeman. It has many more federal buildings, grants and programs to protest anyway.

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