In an odd but heart-warming twist in an otherwise bleak saga of racial disunity, people classified by some as “white terrorists” – who were at first counter-protesting in Missoula – eventually put down their Confederate flags and used their pickup trucks to shield George Floyd’s mourners from anticipated trouble.
Numerous protests have been held around Montana in cities like Bozeman, Helena, Billings, and Missoula. Protests started small and grew increasingly larger, one after another. As the protests started, opposition protestors were absent. But as the protests grew, they began to attract crowds of citizens with firearms who were intent on making sure that the peaceful protests didn’t grow into full-scale riots. Rumors of out-of-state paid Antifa protestors coming east from Couer d’Alaine into Missoula or Kalispell (an unsubstantiated but not far-fetched claim) put locals on edge.
Counter-protesters began to arrive as one would expect them to in the rugged state of Montana, with pickup trucks flying Trump flags, American flags, and some with the Confederate Battle Flag. Both men and women emerged from their vehicles with tactical gear and semi-automatic weapons like the AR-15 sporting rifle. Although the progressive blog, the Montana Post, referred to the group as “white terrorists,” news reports indicate that they were only concerned citizens who mostly parked a block away from the protest, keeping an eye out for any possible trouble or impending riots. Those who did hold up signs or raise their voice were mostly focused on Antifa and violent rioting that is happening around the country, and few – if any – voiced explicitly racist opinions.
They were present, the group claimed, just to watch out for potential trouble. Meanwhile, the protestors themselves say they felt intimidated and threatened by the distant presence of the “concerned citizens.” Their firearms looked imposing and their dress and attire appeared militant. For many onlookers, the two groups seemed diametrically opposed to one another and a potential race conflict was on the horizon.
But then, something amazing happened. The two groups began to converse. They talked to one another. And as they spoke, they figured out that neither group wanted violence and neither group supported hate.
One publication quotes an ethnic-minority participant in the George Floyd remembrance rally as saying, “It means that we’re having a conversation, and we’re getting together and putting differences aside and talking. We’re doing it peacefully and coming together as a unified community instead of against one another.”
Eventually, the racial equality protestors politely asked that the concerned citizens put down their flags and shield them from potential trouble, whether Antifa groups rumored to be in the area or possible alt-right trouble makers. In a stunning display of humanity, the counter-protestors put down their flags. In typical Montana fashion, they did not put down their guns.
Derek Crowe, originally a counter-protestors, said, “Even if there is nothing coming, no violence, just being here and making sure that not only they’re safe, but our community and our buildings, too.”
But with their guns in hand, and having maneuvered their pickup trucks around the protestors as a 21st-century version of “circling the wagons,” the concerned citizens joined the protest against racial inequality and even sung along with some of their songs.
Another counter-protestor, Carla Lewis, had two sons with her who were open-carrying their firearms. Lewis told the Missoulian, “Our thing is, and they don’t like it, all lives matter.”
Then she added, “But I understand Black Lives Matter, because of what happens. We don’t agree with what happened, and that cop needs to do time.”
Of course, no happy ending can go unbegrudged. One participant, a black woman, told the press, “Missoula is so desperate for white-washed harmony, they’re going to believe that things are all good because they see this shininess happening between protesters and militia and cops. And it’s not, it’s a co-option of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
She concluded, “They need to put their guns down. You don’t shoot people who are looting.”
Most Missoulians would disagree with that sentiment and most looters probably would get shot if caught breaking-and-entering anywhere in Montana. Thankfully, however, most participating in the rally for George Floyd were appreciative that concerned citizens were present and now protecting them, even with guns in hand.
Imagine that…the “white terrorists” actually turned out to be reasonable human beings who could understand where the protestors were coming from and would likewise condemn police brutality. Conversely, the racial equality protestors could empathize with the counter-protestors and understand they just wanted to keep their community safe from mob violence incited by Antifa.
In the end, the two groups came together in song and fellowship to both mourn the loss of George Floyd and cry out for a peaceful rather than violent response. This story should be on the national news and the front page of every newspaper. This is how America is supposed to be.
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature” – Abraham Lincoln.