Thursday, August 18, 2022

City council candidate accuses Black Lives Matter of meddling in health board appointment

Daily Inter Lake | October 26, 2021 7:00 AM

Libby City Council candidate Darrel “DC” Orr warned last week that the Black Lives Matter campaign is orchestrating the removal of a recently appointed local health board member.

“I am hearing that BLM is very much involved in this,” Orr told the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners during its Oct. 20 meeting, though the national organization has disavowed any activity locally.

Commissioners are reconsidering the appointment of Dr. Dianna Carvey of Eureka to the county health board earlier this month. While the trio held up letters of support for Carvey as evidence of her backing in the community prior to the Oct. 13 vote, they did not offer residents in attendance an opportunity to speak. Since then, they have opted to revisit the process and allow for public comment after speaking with an expert on local government.

Carvey’s appointment would give north Lincoln County the balance of seats on the board and could leave members skeptical of vaccinations and timeworn virus prevention efforts with a majority. She would replace Dr. Sara Mertes of Libby, who routinely backed county Health Officer Dr. Brad Black’s recommendations until she died in a plane crash in August, on the board.

Orr, who is simultaneously running for Libby City Council and preparing for a trial in Lincoln County District Court on a felony assault with a weapon charge, called on commissioners to reveal who was behind the effort to challenge Carvey’s ascension.

Commissioners told Orr that Jim Seifert, who represents Troy on the health board, lodged a compliant after they voted without taking public comment. Seifert was one of several people in attendance for the appointment.

Orr warned commissioners against staying quiet on behind-the-scenes lobbying efforts. They must reveal any and all outside influences, he said, before linking Black Lives Matter to the proceedings. Orr accused Carvey’s chief competitor for the health board position, Libby’s Dr. Gregory Rice, as being active in the nationwide social justice organization.

“[Black Lives Matter] is still really active in this town,” Orr said. “When it does come up a week from now, I expect any discussions you guys had with BLM to be made public so we know who is lobbying you behind the scenes.”

As Orr used the acronym for the organization, commissioners initially thought he was referring to the Bureau of Land Management. Afterward, County Commissioner Brent Teske (D-1) said he did not know anyone involved in Black Lives Matter and considered himself an unlikely target of the group’s lobbying.

“I would be the last person they would contact,” said Teske, who expressed confusion at the connection between the health board appointment and Black Lives Matter.

It’s a callback to a campaign Orr led, most visibly on social media, against Rice during the first year of the pandemic. Rice, who has served as a physician in Libby since the 1970s and joined various community efforts, including the cross country ski club and Habitat for Humanity, participated with his wife in a local Black Lives Matter rally in June 2020.

Echoing accusations that the national organization is more interested in Marxism than social justice, Orr labeled Rice and residents involved in the local rally, which he described on Facebook as a “riot,” as Marxists. When Susie Rice helped organize Team 56, a group aimed at promoting pandemic measures like masking and regular washing of hands, Orr accused them of spreading Marxism in local schools and galvanizing class warfare in Lincoln County.

Simultaneously, Orr repeatedly accused Black of profiteering off of the pandemic, only stopping after the county attorney’s office publicly cleared the health officer.

Orr has taken similar tactics to other perceived political enemies, labeling local newspapers as anti-American, medical professionals as socialists, elected officials he disagrees with as corrupt, traitors or socialist (to include the all-Republican board of commissioners), all since the pandemic began in earnest. As for neighbors who publicly disagree with him, Orr has made a habit of contacting their employers and lobbying for disciplinary action or termination.

For its part, Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation officials said in a statement that the group was not involved in any ongoing political efforts in Lincoln County. The organization arose after the 2013 acquittal of a Florida neighborhood watch member who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager.

The group leapt back into national discourse in the summer 2020 after the death of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis. Rallies and protests, some marred by violence and looting, ignited across the country. The Libby event, where armed members of the Three Percenters militia and attendees of an opposing pro-Donald Trump rally outnumbered Black Lives Matter protestors, was peaceful.