A big heart sits inside the outline of the state of Montana on a poster that will hang in Missoula and Whitefish businesses – and elsewhere in the Big Sky.

"NO HATE in Our State," reads the caption. "Designated SAFE Business."

"As we're approaching Martin Luther King week, it's a really great time to show that our community stands for inclusion and diversity, and that we reject hate," said Erin Erickson, of Missoula Rises.

Missoula Rises is a nonpartisan group that aims to protect diverse voices and human rights through education, dialogue, vigilance, accountability and activism. The group created the poster in partnership with the Montana Human Rights Network.

Since November's election, racist and anti-Semitic pamphlets have appeared on doorsteps in Missoula and elsewhere in Montana. Members of minority groups have been harassed. A white supremacist website called for a "troll storm" against Jewish people in Whitefish – and has threatened a skinhead march there on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

The threat came after a conflict over the property owned by the mother of Richard Spencer, the leader of a fringe white nationalist movement identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. Spencer has said he does not want a march to take place.

Rachel Carroll Rivas, co-director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said the poster presents a visual statement and the loud and powerful voice of many unified Montanans. It's different than the "online hate mongers and the very singular voices, dangerous voices, like Richard Spencer's."

"I hope that these 'No Hate In Our State' signs are just a continued piece of the good work that shows the energy, the power and the volume of support behind really positive good things," Rivas said.

She also said she's excited about the network's affiliation with Missoula Rises, given Montana's many human rights challenges at present.


Tuesday in Missoula, a downtown ambassador was handing out 150 of the posters to businesses, said Linda McCarthy, of the Downtown Missoula Partnership. The partnership aims to keep people informed about events, such as concerts, and it also has a mission to keep downtown safe.

A downtown that's lively, vibrant and safe contributes to the city's economic vitality, she said. The "No Hate" posters fit the bill.

"Communicating that downtown is a safe place and that businesses are a safe place for people we think is a good thing," McCarthy said.

On the Hip Strip, Donovan Peterson figured he'd tack one of the posters to a cork board in his shop, Upcycled, once he received it. He's sympathetic to the issue and other similar causes, like a unity march, emblazoned on posters that land in his store.

"I personally, along with what I think to be the vast majority of Montanans, think that there's no place for hatred or race divisiveness in our state," Peterson said.

Erickson, with Missoula Rises, said she wanted to create posters that businesses could hang that indicate their establishments are welcoming to all people, "regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation." At the same time, she said, the signs let people know that if they're being harassed, the business will help.

She's hoping the posters make their way across Montana and that the design feels welcoming.

"I wanted something that reflected community and Montana, and it seems to have more of an inclusive sense," Erickson said.

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