In an email to residents of the 6,000-person town Wednesday, City Manager Chuck Stearns confirmed that the march, scheduled for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, had been postponed because the marchers had not filed the necessary paperwork.
The armed march had been organized by Andrew Anglin, who runs the white supremacist website The Daily Stormer, and intended to harass the Whitefish Jewish community. In a post on the site, Anglin vowed to hold the march in February, with or without a permit.
But Stearns told JTA that if Anglin submits the necessary materials, Whitefish will be obligated to grant him a permit, regardless of his ideology. Stearns told JTA that one obstacle to holding the march next week was that Anglin had not purchased insurance.
“We can’t really restrict the content of their speech, so they likely can assemble and receive a permit for free speech and freedom of assembly,” he said. “But we can also put conditions on it.”
Stearns told JTA that the city is still examining how much it can restrict the marchers’ plans to march while brandishing guns. He said police are drawing up plans for how to react if a march eventually takes place.
“We were only requiring of him things we require of every applicant, even if it’s a sidewalk sale,” he said.
The Daily Stormer published a blog post last month claiming that Jewish residents were “threatening” a local business run by the mother of Richard Spencer, a prominent white supremacist. The blog post provided personal details of Jewish families in the town, and called on followers to “take action” against Jews in Whitefish by writing and calling them with anti-Semitic messages.
Stearns told JTA that talk of the march and the attendant media coverage has made residents anxious. He said some residents are working to ensure that if a march happens, locals do not draw attention to it.
“There’s some organized effort to have people not turn out and ignore that,” he said. “I’ve been told it’s worked in other cities. I don’t know if anyone knows the exact right approach.”