Compassion Rally a Political Statement
Thoughts of welcoming Muslim refugees brought a couple of hundred people together in Bonners Ferry, Idaho on Saturday, January 9, 2016.
Organizers brought in many people from out of the area and billed it as a rally for tolerance. Calling it a ‘Compassion Rally’ and a show of Comm’Unity’, the rally drew as many people voicing the opposite opinion.
North Idaho has made the headlines recently on this issue, including the Boundary County Commissioners breaking records for citizen attendance at their meetings. They passed a resolution to send to Governor Otter against allowing refugees from the resettlement program into Boundary County.
This rally also seemed a direct response to the Commissioner’s resolution.
Working my way through the crowd, the supporters of the rally would first ask if I was conservative or liberal before they turned their backs and refused to talk with me. The anti-refugee protesters had no such prejudice. They were willing to discuss the problems of refugees with everyone.
“We’re here today to send a message that the Human Rights Task Force non-discrimination policy of bringing UN-vetted members of a potentially dangerous culture is divisive to the culture of this community,” said Dan Rose, member of the protest group.
The organizers made a show of unity at the start of the rally when they called the protesters over to the Georgia Mae Plaza to hear their speakers. Also, to their credit, they allowed Mary Williams to speak at the end, though it is unsure if they knew she would speak against the refugee program. They did stop her in the middle of her talk citing time issues.
One of the speakers, teacher Linda Hall, gave an excellent talk on her Japanese family during World War II. This talk was worth discussing in it’s own right, yet it was not pertinent to the subject of incoming refugees from Syria.
The speakers compared apples and oranges throughout the hour. They talked of tolerance and diversity, yet would not allow discussion on potential problems.
When I attempted to ask their opinion on Fazliddin Kurbanov, the Muslim Refugee convicted of terrorism in Idaho and sentenced to 25 years in Federal prison this week in Boise, again I saw them walk away without comment. I was not able to determine if they even knew of the case.
Expecting the contentious issue to create problems, the Bonners Ferry Police called all available officers to cover the rally. Due to the number of people from out of the area, one officer told me he lost sleep the night before worrying about who might get hurt. The officer stated he was not worried about the local residents.
Overall, the rally was peaceful and the two sides intermixed well, if not actually getting along.
By Shari Dovale