Missoula councilwoman: ‘Please do something’ to support inclusion, stop discrimination

Ruth Ann Swaney

Missoula City Councilwoman Ruth Ann Swaney led her fellow council members this week in denouncing the racism, bigotry and hatred exhibited by white supremacists who marched on Charlottesville, Va.

She took the next step as well, suggesting ways Missoula citizens could take action locally to address discrimination and support inclusion.

“I want to say that racism, bigotry and discrimination exist in our country, state and even locally,” Swaney said. “But so does love, and I believe love is here in Missoula.”

Swaney encouraged all citizens to take action if they witness hate crimes or discrimination locally.

The city of Missoula has an online form that citizens can submit if they have witnessed or been the victim of a bias crime – discrimination based on race, creed, color, religion, national origin, involvement in civil rights or human rights activities, sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation.

The report form is available at this link.

More information is available here.

The web pages were created by the Missoula Police Department and the city as part of “an extensive campaign against bias crimes and intolerant behavior to encourage people to safely report those crimes.”

“If you or someone you know has been harassed based on sexual orientation or perceived orientation, we want to know,” the Stop Bias page says. “For a safe, confidential way to report any form of harassment in the Missoula area to the Missoula Police Department, email StopBias. The Missoula Police Department is concerned about all violations of human rights.”

In her appeal to local citizens, Swaney was clear.

“Please do something,” she said. “Take action. It’s important that we do something. It’s important that we address issues of discrimination, but also do things that support inclusion.”

Swaney provided a starter list of events planned for the coming weeks and months that will allow Montanans to take positive action in support of equality and social justice, and also thanked the groups that organized last Sunday’s “Montana Vigil: In Solidarity with Charlottesville.”

Here are a number of events Swaney suggested attending in coming months:

  • “Race in Montana: A Community Forum,” Friday, Sept. 15, Bozeman Public Library.
  • “Dismantling Hatred: Skills and Strategies You Can Use,” Saturday, Oct. 7, C’mon Inn, Bozeman.
  • Flathead Valley Advanced Leadership Training, EmpowerMT, Oct. 13-14, Mission Valley United Methodist Church, 70715 Highway 93 North.
  • True Colors Training, YWCA Missoula and EmpowerMT, addressing the unique challenges faced by people of color. Spring 2018.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Swaney’s fellow council members recognized her leadership on issues of inclusion and in speaking out against racism and bigotry.

In addition, Ward 1 Councilman Bryan von Lossberg issued a statement via his campaign Facebook page.

Bryan von Lossberg

“To my constituents in Ward 1 and all of Missoula, let me be clear,” he wrote. “I denounce and condemn the racist hatred and domestic terrorism that has scarred Charlottesville. Hatred is not an American value. It is the defining value of cowards. It is abhorrent, as are its acolytes.”

“What’s going to stop the Charlottesville tragedy from happening in Missoula?” he asked. “What are our values? Say the words. Name them, so we are conscious of not just what we stand against – but what we stand for and hold dear.

“I stand for justice. I stand for empathy. I stand for hope. And I call on the President to stand – unambiguously – for the same.

“We are dreamers and idealists and, yes, patriots. And we will not be consumed by the fire and fury of ignorance and hate.”

Von Lossberg offered a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. as a further expression of his thoughts:

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. … I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word …” (Martin Luther King Jr., Noble Peace Prize acceptance speech, December 10, 1964)