A new flag with an old message is flying in Montana.
Montana Creativity Movement members bear as their standard a banner marked with a W for the white race. The W is topped by a crown symbolizing elite status and with a halo representing the sacredness of the race they worship.
They count chapters in Billings, Laurel, Lockwood, Miles City, Bozeman, Butte, Helena, Missoula, Park City and Shepherd.
"We are your neighbors, your best friend, your co-workers, etc.," organizer Westin Adams said. "The only difference is we are loyal to our racial family."
The MCM has members and supporters in northcentral Montana and plans to use those links to establish chapters here next year.
They are the people with the "most energy on the ground" among a rising number of white supremacist groups in the state, said Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network.
"In Montana it's been an interesting couple of years, as far as a real growth in white supremacists on the ground actually doing stuff in communities," he said.
"We've had Creators in Montana pretty much as long as we've been around," McAdam said. "During the 1990s, they were mostly focused on Western Montana. This time around it's mostly focused out of Billings, and it's a much younger group of activists."
In white supremacist circles, Montana has taken on mythological status as a potential part of an Aryan homeland.
Thirteen hate groups are active across the state, from Miles City to Kalispell, in Billings, Lewistown, Missoula, Helena and Bozeman.
Across the country, the number of hate groups is increasing as well. For the first time since the Southern Poverty Law Center began tracking hate groups in the 1980s, the number of American hate groups has topped 1,000.
The biggest growth came in anti-government organizations, which gained 300 new groups for a 60 percent gain.
Throughout the Northwest, 54 active hate groups were identified, with 15 in Oregon and 13 each in Washington, Idaho and Montana, giving the Treasure State a hate group concentration per million people comparable only to Mississippi.
The Alabama-based human rights group defines hate groups as those who follow the ideologies of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, racist skinheads, neo-confederate, black separatist or general hate.
The two Montana groups drawing the most attention are the Montana Creativity Movement and Pioneer Little Europe.
An Aryan homeland
When April Gaede of Kalispell issued an invitation to fellow white supremacists to "come home" to this region, she heralded the merits of Montana for a Pioneer Little Europe, a concentration of white supremacists.
A Kalispell PLE unofficial goodwill ambassador, as she has called herself, Gaede has posted job listings and housing options, recreation offerings and anecdotes crafted to draw more people like herself to the Flathead.
Gaede moved to Montana from California because too many Latinos had changed the nature of her neighborhood, she said on a white-pride Internet forum.
Chief among the attractions of Kalispell is its overwhelmingly white demographics, she said.
"Over 20 years ago some of the first White Nationalist pioneers started moving to this area. The numbers are not clear but we are slowly but surely gaining ground," she announced.
McAdam said PLE is "doing as much as they can to promote an idea that goes across white supremacist borders," offering the region as a home not just for members of a particular organization but saying anyone who agrees white people are superior should come colonize the area.
"It's basically the newest version of a longtime commitment by the white supremacists to create an Aryan homeland," McAdam said.
Racial holy war
In the 1970s, white supremacists envisioned taking over the Pacific Northwest.
"Obviously that didn't work too well," McAdam said.
So the group is thinking smaller, now.
"It's based more on the community level this time," he said.
The Montana Creativity Movement stems from the Church of the Creator, founded in 1973 by Florida legislator and electric can-opener inventor Ben Klassen.
"As far as an organized local group affiliated with a national group, that's the big one," McAdam said.
The group's name stems from the idea that the white person is the "most creative, productive and intelligent creature Mother Nature has produced in ... 2.3 billion years," Klassen wrote in his autobiography.
Creators shun marriage between those of different races, embrace anti-Semitism, reject Christianity and other religions (save worship of the race) and take as their motto "RaHoWa" (racial holy war).
Klassen killed himself in 1993, and his cause was taken up by Matt Hale, who titled himself Pontifex Maximus (high priest) of the renamed World Church of the Creator. The organization became the neo-Nazi group with the most chapters, with 88 by 2002. However, the group came into the spotlight after a former "Creator of the Year" went on a rampage, killing two and wounding nine in Illinois and Indiana. Hale was convicted of soliciting the murder of the judge who ruled against him in a copyright dispute over the group's name.
In 2009, the Montana Creativity Movement began spreading literature and since then has held a few, small rallies.
The group made headlines again when 2009 Creator of the Year, Allen Michael Goff of Billings, was charged with felony assault with a weapon after allegedly shooting a Hispanic teen in the leg. The 17-year-old was acquitted by a jury and sentenced to six months probation and fined $150 for a misdemeanor charge of carrying a concealed weapon.
Last month, Goff pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of obstruction and was sentenced to 40 days in jail, with credit for the more than 40 days served after his arrest for threatening a Native American man with a gun.
Great Falls is not a hot spot for white supremacist groups, and police have reported no problems with illegal white supremacist activities.
Home to Malmstrom Air Force Base, the Electric City is the most racially diverse of Montana's three largest cities, yet — because the state has seven reservations — Great Falls is slightly less diverse than the state as a whole, 89.96 percent white compared with 87.8 percent statewide.
Billings and Kalispell,the two cities with the biggest racist scenes, are 88.8 percent and 95.8 percent white respectively.
The 2010 federal census reported Great Falls is 5 percent Native American, or 2,942 residents; 3.4 percent Hispanic, or 1,978 people; 1 percent black, or 617 people; and .8 percent Asian, or 520 people. The city also had 76 Native Hawaiians, and 365 people who said they were of a single "other" race last year.
"Politically, you look at an area like the Flathead, and it's traditionally conservative. Billings is more intriguing because there's more diversity in the community," McAdam said. "Great Falls can count itself lucky it hasn't had these kinds of organized groups on a consistent basis to deal with."
On the other hand, Great Falls gained national attention when a former Ku Klux Klan organizer announced he would run as a candidate for Montana's seat in the U.S. House.
John Abarr, a hotel night auditor who said he is still on the KKK mailing list but not an organizer, is running as a Republican and told The Associated Press he has been motivated by the election of President Obama.
Abarr has written fliers encouraging the deportation of homosexuals and Jewish Americans to create an ethnically pure "Realm of Montana."
In 2002, during Abarr's bid for the state legislator, Cascade County and state Republican officials roundly denounced his candidacy.
Abarr is an example of the potential for racist ideas to be repackaged and go "from the margins to the mainstream," McAdam said.
So is the Rev. Chuck Baldwin, McAdam said. The Florida transplant to the Flathead has been a Constitution Party presidential candidate, an advocate of militia movements and involved with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center characterizes as a hate group.
"There are some individual activists pretty interested in politics and how you use politics as a way to mainstream your message and line up behind candidates to gain credibility," McAdam said. "Most are much more interested in trying to create communities that look the way they want, all white all the time."
Part of the repackaging is for groups to present themselves as heritage groups.
"These are not the people who organize the St. Patrick's Day parade in Butte," McAdam said. "It's fine to be proud of your heritage, but these groups believe if you're not white — and their definition of white varies — you shouldn't be allowed to participate, that you aren't equal, you shouldn't exist and you shouldn't have the same rights."
The forces driving a surge in Montana racist groups are the same as those playing out across the country, McAdam said.
"You had this perfect storm over the last two years of a bad economic condition, people losing their jobs, their homes and a lot of fear and anger," he said. "You have an African-American president and all these different factors that if just one was happening it would be good for the white supremacists."
White supremacists have an easy answer for problems like why people are losing homes — the Jewish banks. To people upset about the 2008 election of Barack Obama, they say the country has a "subhuman illegitimately in the office."
Regarding issues of immigration, the mainstream debate has been divisive, too.
"It's a great environment for white supremacists to repackage their message and wedge themselves into some of the mainstream debates going on right now," McAdam said.
Their answer to the issues that trouble our era envisions a society that's not safe for anyone outside an exclusive set, McAdam said.
"Minorities, whether of color or Jewish, gay or lesbian become the likely target. We believe communities function best when everyone feels safe, where everyone feels they can participate. White supremacist groups fundamentally don't believe that," he said. "They think white people are the only people who matter"
By the time a group like Montana Creativity excludes Christians — a "sick and morbid religion" according to their organizational statements — and anyone without northern European heritage, "that's going to be a small number of people," McAdam said.
Klassen in "The White Man's Bible" spelled out a scale of whiteness, with black people at the bottom as "barely human, but more correctly subhuman or humanoid," white people as the "very top pinnacle" and "mud races" categorized between the two.
"One of the beliefs Creators have is RaHoWa, racial holy war where creators believe there will be a worldwide ethnic cleansing that will leave only white people with everything on the planet," McAdam said. "As a forth generation Montanan, I don't believe white supremacist beliefs are the same as Montana values. It comes down to all of us deciding how we want our communities to function."