The Missoula City Attorney’s Office on Friday charged an individual at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in June for unlawful restraint and acting as a security guard without a license.
The charges, filed against Mark David Belden, stem from an incident that took place on June 5 in which Belden allegedly stopped an individual deemed suspicious and demanded that he reveal his or her identity.
The victim had concealed his identity with a long, hooded sweatshirt, sunglasses and a face covering, which reportedly made some BLM organizers nervous.
According to the victim, Belden, who was a member of an armed group attending the rally, stopped the victim in a nearby alley and demanded multiple times that he show his face or identity. The city attorney’s office said Belden had no authority to stop the victim, nor did he have the authority to ask the victim to identify himself.
When the victim tried to run, Belden yelled “get him.” An uninvolved bystander heard Belden’s call and tripped the victim, holding him until law enforcement could arrive.
Kanyon Stevens, an event organizer, told police that Belden had stopped and confronted the victim in the alley. Police observed multiple people detaining the victim.
“Multiple Missoula police officers were familiar with (Belden), as he was an armed male who had shown up at the protest daily and assumed a role as security,” the charging documents state. “(Belden) told police that he had been acting as personal security for some of the Black Lives Matter event organizers.”
Stevens and a fellow event organizer confirmed Belden’s claim.
Some organizers of the daily demonstration had grown highly suspicious of outsiders. Despite the event taking place in a public square, some organizers demanded the names of attendees and the credentials of local media. Some organizers went so far as to disrupt media interviews.
Belden is charged with unlawful restraint and with operating as a private security guard without a license. Both charges are misdemeanors. The City Attorney’s Office said it based the charges on facts established during an investigation by the Missoula Police Department.
Unlawful restraint carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and six months in jail. Operating as a security guard without a license carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.