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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Montanans Respond To Insurrection At The U.S. Capitol

Demonstrators gather outside the Montana Capitol January 6, 2021 in support of President Trump's debunked claims of fraud in the presidential election.
Shaylee Ragar
Montana Public Radio
Demonstrators gather outside the Montana Capitol January 6, 2021 in support of President Trump's debunked claims of fraud in the presidential election.

Montana state political leaders issued statements condemning pro-Donald Trump extremists who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

Chairman Don Kaltschmidt said violence doesn’t represent the Montana GOP’s values. He celebrated the First Amendment but said “today's events at the U.S. Capitol fell far short of what makes this country great.”

Montana Senate President Mark Blasdel and Speaker of the House Wylie Galt, both Republicans, echoed that point and praised peaceful demonstrations that took place at the Montana Capitol this week.

Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Sandi Luckey said Wednesday’s violence was enabled by “the dangerous, baseless claims of election fraud,” by Gov. Greg Gianforte, Sen. Steve Daines and Congressman Matt Rosendale, who are all Republicans. 

Rosendale and Daines had announced they planned to object to the Electoral College vote count unless election results are audited. Daines changed course and certified all states, while Rosendale objected to electoral votes from Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Montana House Minority Leader Kim Abbott and Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour, both Democrats, were disturbed by Wednesday’s violence. Cohenour said the country deserves leaders who “do more than condemn the violence attempting to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.”

As pro-Donald Trump extremists stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, roughly 100 people gathered peacefully outside Montana’s seat of government in Helena to show their support for the president. 

Dana Glatz was among the protestors outside the Montana Capitol on Wednesday afternoon who didn’t believe the presidential election was legitimate. He cited an inaccurate claim that votership exceeded registration in swing states, then pointed to a nearby statute of Civil War General Thomas Meagher.

“He looked into those Democrat cannons and did not bend or break. We must do the same,” Glatz said.

Several people on the lawn in front of the Capitol had guns and tactical gear while one man carried a pitchfork. But attendees mostly milled around the Capitol grounds or waved American and Trump flags at passing cars.

Throughout the day, small groups of people waving Trump flags gathered in public places in several Montana towns. Some carried signs showing support for conspiracy theories about the 2020 election results. One of the largest crowds of Trump supporters was reported in Missoula, where around 100 people gathered.

In Helena, Puanani Weavers said she’s afraid for her children and American democracy. She was unmoved by elections officials and courts that have roundly dismissed allegations of widespread voter fraud.

“I don’t believe that they’re all lying. I think there’s a lot of corruption,” Weavers said.

Bob Leach was frustrated that many of Trump’s legal challenges were thrown out of court without receiving a hearing. The former state House of Representatives candidate praised the peaceful gathering in Helena, but was skeptical that a mob of fellow Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

“I’d like to find out whether they’re Trump supporters or antifa pretending to be,” Leach said.

News outlets, including the New York Times and Washington Post, are reporting there is no evidence that antifa activists participated in storming the Capitol.

Leach said he’ll support lawful acts taken by President-elect Joe Biden after he takes office.

Another man who didn’t want to be named said he’ll follow a different plan.

“We’re going to fight it. He’s an illegitimate president. He wasn’t elected.”

Spokesperson Angela Conger said the state Department of Administration increased law enforcement presence at the Capitol Complex. She said the department is working with local, state and federal authorities, but there haven’t been any issues.

Protesters started to leave the Capitol after a couple hours Wednesday afternoon, but not before a man with a guitar began playing protest and traditional patriotic songs.

Kevin is a UM Journalism graduate student and reporter for MTPR.
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