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2024 Montana Primary elections

Billings Police Say They'll Support Peaceful Protests

Amber Palmer speaks during a June 4 press conference in Billings about upcoming rallies in reaction to the death of George Floyd, a black man killed while in police custody in Minneapolis. Palmer is joined by other protest organizers.
Screen capture from Billings Police Department video of the press conference.
Amber Palmer speaks during a June 4 press conference in Billings about upcoming rallies in reaction to the death of George Floyd, a black man killed while in police custody in Minneapolis. Palmer is joined by other protest organizers.

The Billings Police Department said at a press conference Thursday that it will do its utmost to ensure a safe and peaceful Sunday rally for racial equity and nonviolence in police interactions. Organizers in several Montana cities are planning events this week.

The locally-organized Billings event is part of a string of nationwide protests against racial violence in the days following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in Minneapolis police custody.

Billings Police Chief Rich St. John on Thursday denounced the officer’s behaviour and said the BPD is fully supportive of peaceful protest.

"To anyone coming, know that we are doing everything we can to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard, nobody’s rights are infringed upon and that whoever is protesting, whether they agree with one another or not, stays safe."

He echoed other Montana police chiefs in saying that despite rumors on social media, there is no credible evidence to suggest groups - such a far-left-leaning militant group Antifa - would be at the rally this weekend to incite violence.

Billings organizers say the rally will be a peaceful show of support for Floyd and others who have been apprehended unjustly because of their skin color.

Local groups are also putting together an event in Bozeman in line with the national day of action Friday. An event was also planned in Missoula, but organizers postponed it Thursday evening due to safety concerns.

Gov. Steve Bullock on Thursday said he has no immediate plans to mobilize the National Guard to respond to the protests, adding the events are firmly within local law enforcement’s jurisdiction. President Donald Trump earlier this week urged governors to respond with force to protests that turn violent or destructive.

Events in Billings, Great Falls, Havre, Helena, Missoula and Whitefish over the last week have drawn disparate crowds but remained nonviolent.

Copyright 2020 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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