Northern Plains organizes event to celebrate, defend Montanans’ rights
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 1, 2023
HELENA, Mont. – Despite icy roads and interstate closures, several hundred Montanans gathered today in Helena’s Capitol Rotunda to send legislators a clear message – keep Montana’s Constitution intact. In a packed room filled with signs that read “We the People Love Montana’s Constitution” and “The MT Constitution: Don’t Mess With It,” attendees rallied to celebrate and defend the document during the state’s 68th Legislature.
“For more than half a century, our Montana Constitution has faithfully protected our freedoms, rights, and people. It secures what makes Montana special,” were the opening rally remarks from Kris Glenn, a Northern Plains Resource Council member who helped organize the rally and served as the event’s emcee.
“But a small handful of lawmakers have already proposed 55 Constitutional amendments this legislature, from attacks on our right to a clean and healthful environment, to the independence of our courts, our democracy, and so much more,” continued Glenn.
Dorothy Bradley, who was elected to the Montana Legislature in 1970 when she was the only woman serving in the House, gave an impassioned speech centered on the Constitution’s history. Bradley served in the legislature for 16 years, including before and after the 1972 Constitution was adopted. She noted the improvements in government transparency and accountability that emerged once the new Constitution was ratified. Bradley closed her speech with a call to unity in defense of democratic values.
“What we are learning today is that neither our heartland nor our Constitution can be taken for granted,” said Bradley. “It is ever more apparent that if we fail to come together we may squander both our Constitutional heritage and our environmental heritage.”
The Montana Constitution was drafted more than fifty years ago by a delegation of everyday Montanans, none of whom were politicians. The document they drafted provides Montanans some of the most expansive rights of any state constitution in the U.S.
“The delegates who came together in 1972 represented every corner of the state and all walks of life – ranchers, teachers, homemakers, and even a beekeeper from Lewistown,” continued Glenn.
“These delegates were united by a common desire to replace the dominance of the Copper Kings – the rule of the wealthy few – with a new era of grassroots democracy,” Glenn told the crowd shortly before introducing the event’s final speaker, former Republican Governor and Attorney General of Montana, Marc Racicot.
Racicot spoke at length, drawing on the history of both the U.S. and Montana Constitutions. He encouraged attendees to look past the forces that foment division with a plea for Montanans to work together in defense of our shared rights and freedoms.
“We should begin our constitutional vigil in the same way the delegates to the convention over 50 years ago began their historic work: by presuming the best of one another and remembering that a people who cannot talk or listen to each other, who will not sincerely consider the thoughts of each other, who do not trust each other and who cannot reason with each other, cannot long live in freedom,” said Racicot.
After leading rally goers in a series of cheers and chants including “Hands off our Constitution,” Glenn directed the crowd of hundreds to visit both the House and Senate chambers to make their presence known to Montana’s legislators.
“We are fiercely proud of our Constitution, written by Montanans to serve Montanans,” said Glenn before leading attendees to legislators’ chambers. “For more than half a century, it has faithfully protected our freedoms, rights, and people. It has protected us, and now it is our turn to protect it.”