HELENA, Mont. — People across the country were shocked by the crowd that forced its way into the U.S. Capitol on the first Wednesday of the year.
But followers of the far-right movement say there were warning signs leading up to the attack.
Travis McAdam, program director for combating white nationalism and defending democracy at the Montana Human Rights Network, said far-right groups have been mobilizing in protest of COVID-19 safety measures.
“A lot of times in those crowds, you had these armed contingents of militia members and other anti-government groups, and that started out pretty early on in the pandemic,” McAdam explained.
The Montana Human Rights Network has been following groups such as People’s Rights, which began last year and is estimated to have about 700 members in the state.
On Wednesday, about 100 pro-Trump supporters held a peaceful rally at the Montana Capitol.
McAdam said it’s become normal to see armed paramilitary people at protests over the past year, but the siege on the U.S. Capitol could jolt folks awake to the fact that it shouldn’t be normal.
“Sometimes because folks can feel like, ‘Oh, you know, what’s happening in my community is happening in my community and sort of exists in a vacuum,'” McAdam observed. “It’s important to understand that those dynamics were playing out all over the country.”
McAdam added a lot of the healing of the country’s divisions can start locally.
“It tends to be much easier to start conversations with your friends and neighbors and to try to find those areas of agreement and those underlying values that people can support,” McAdam concluded.