Mike Munck sat in a collapsible chair he brought with his sign stuck in the snow next to him as he waited for Friday’s rally in support of immigrants and immigration to begin.
“Keep America Great! Ban ignorance, not immigrants!” his sign stated, a sentiment that would be echoed by others who brought signs with them in protest of President Donald Trump’s executive order that temporarily scaled back immigration.
"I am a descendant of immigrants. Are you?” “No Ban, No Wall Montana for All” and “Say No to UnAmerican Trump,” read some of the other signs that would be held in protest of the ban.
Trump’s order blocked refugees from any country from entering the United States for 120 days and those from Syria indefinitely. For 90 days, the order blocked entry into the United States for citizens of seven primarily Muslim nations: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Munck is retired. He last managed the St. Peter’s Hospital Foundation where he worked for 24 years, he said. He lists his past employment and concludes by saying he has lived here 44 years.
He came to the rally in protest of what he considers to be ignorance going on in the nation regarding the ban on immigrants, the rationale that led to the ban and the irrational fear that it continues to stoke, he said.
Munck makes note that America’s the richest country on Earth and yet singles out seven of the poorest, the most poverty stricken and war-torn countries for the ban.
The ban denies safe refuge to women and children who are dying every day and involves countries that had nothing to do with any terrorist attack on the United States, he said.
The fate of the foreign nationals around the work who risked their lives through their work with the United States to protect its interests also concerns him.
“It’s appalling from a moral perspective. It’s appalling from a national security perspective," he said.
“We’re all immigrants. That’s part of what makes this country such a great country, the diversity of the people that are here," he added.
“Nothing’s ever going to be 100 percent. Will somebody sneak through? At some point. But a blanket ban on all immigrants is just doing more harm than good, in my humble opinion,” Munck 62, said.
“I think it’s important that people in America stand up and visibly say ‘No, this is not what we are for. These are not our values. We don’t support this.’”
Around 300 people filled the area of the Downtown Walking Mall at the trolley for the rally despite the bitter cold.
Annie Hanshew, an organizer of the Montana for Immigrants event, said the demonstration wasn’t associated with any other group, although similar rallies were being held in Billings, Missoula and Bozeman.
This rally, she continued, is to protest the president’s order “that we feel is un-American.”
When speaking to the crowd, she said this event was to let friends and neighbors know “we don’t support the hate and fear that is being directed at them.”
This was also to let state and federal lawmakers -- as well as the governor -- know that these beliefs are not shared by those at the rally, she said.
Hanshew was pleased with the turnout, which was roughly twice what she expected based on responses on the Facebook page where the event was organized.
Rallies allow the public to narrow down the options of what is acceptable in American politics, she said and added “that’s the point of grassroots Democracy.”
Carolinn Hagan was among the rally’s participants and said afterward, “I think we’re being unjust to (immigrants) and somebody needs to step up for their rights."
All but Native Americans are immigrants to this country, she added.
“I don’t support the president’s immigration ban,” said Valerie Hellemann, also a Helena resident.
She explained it was her duty as an American citizen to stand up for the constitutional rights of immigrants and United States citizens.
The rally is effective, she added, because our citizens have come out and are visible.
“And we know we’re not alone, and our immigrants know that we’re here to support them," she said.
Rally participants took postcards that were offered to them addressed to Montana’s congressional delegation. Those that would appeal to Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., went much quicker than those addressed to Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.
Hanshew was pleased as she handed out postcards.
“I think it went great. Short and sweet so that people don’t freeze to death. I think it’s pretty impressive to see this many people.
“The very fact that people are coming to get these postcards suggests that they care about spreading the message, and I think there’s a lot of work to do both here and around the country," she said.
“I personally think that cultural diversity is the thing that has always defined American greatness,” Hanshew said.
“We don’t all have to share the exact same culture, but we can learn from each other -- different perspectives, different backgrounds, different religions. That needs to constantly be refreshed.
“So when immigrants come here, when refugees come here, they just add to the vibrancy of America’s community," she said.