Montana Public Radio

George Floyd

The weeping wall on Glacier Park's Going-to-the-Sun Road.
David Restivo, NPS (PD)

President Donald Trump signed legislation Tuesday that will devote nearly $3 billion a year to conservation projects, outdoor recreation and maintenance of national parks and other public lands following its overwhelming approval by both parties in Congress.

Residents in some of Montana's larger cities are calling for police departments to revise use of force policy and bolster social services in the wake of several high profile instances of police violence against people of color.

Some departments say they’re already doing much of what’s being called for but they’re open to change.

On June 7, more than a thousand people marched through Billings, Montana’s biggest city, to raise awareness about racially charged police violence in the United States.

An estimated 1,000 people gathered outside the Montana State Capitol June 14 to protest the death of George Floyd in police custody and police treatment of people of color. The protest was mostly nonviolent, though a riot control team stepped in at one point to separate attendees and counter-protestors.

(L-R) Shaley Hall, London Marq and  Ja'Ton Simpson spoke during a Black Lives Matter rally in Missoula, June 14, 2020.
Sofia Stuar-Rasi / Montana Public Radio

A rally in Missoula Sunday drew hundreds to decry the presence of armed vigilantes at racial justice demonstrations. The gathering was spurred after one person was allegedly harassed and attacked by a group of armed individuals during a protest held at the county courthouse over a week ago.

Organizers in Bozeman are calling for more support for Black students at Montana’s largest university and for businesses to commit to anti-racist policies. One organization is gearing up to offer workshops on understanding race.

A Black Lives Matter event in Billings this weekend drew around 2,000 people who rallied in support of racial equality and justice for people of color victimized by law enforcement. Speakers talked about their experiences being Black in Montana.

Editor's note: YPR News is chosing not to bleep a racial slur in quotes in this story because we think it provides important context into the racism Black people experience in Montana.

Justin and his buddies look like they're from a special ops team: They're wearing military-style vests and carrying rifles and pistols. But they aren't military, and they aren't police.

"I see myself as a concerned citizen who happens to be armed," he says.

They won't give their last names, citing safety and job security. But on a recent evening they are standing watch over about 200 protesters at a rally about the death of George Floyd in Missoula, Mont.

Hundreds of people lie on N 27th St. and Second Ave. N in protest of police brutality at the Justice for George Floyd & Black, Indigenous and People of Color In Our Community/World in Billings June 7, 2020.
Nicky Ouellet / Yellowstone Public Radio

Over the past week thousands of people across Montana turned out for locally-organized rallies in support of black Americans and against police brutality. The rallies drew disparate crowds, and while talk got heated at times, the events remained non-violent.

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.

People protest at the Missoula Courthouse, June 2, 2020. The death of George Floyd, a black man while being arrested in Minnesota spurred protests across the country.
Nick Mott / Montana Public Radio

There is no evidence to substantiate widespread rumors that outside agitators are planning to stir up trouble in Missoula, according to the city’s police chief and its mayor.