As protests continued for another day, city leaders on Thursday expressed hope that the demonstrations will remain peaceful, even as the event attracts opposing voices and emotions simmer.
Missoula Mayor John Engen also continued to cite police intelligence that found no evidence to support social media rumors that outside agitators were heading to the city.
“There’s a ton of social media rumor,” he said Thursday. “We continue to have absolutely no credible intelligence that we have agitators targeting Missoula.”
Demonstrators on Thursday lined West Broadway in downtown Missoula for what marked the sixth day of protest. They continued to hold signs and chant slogans calling for change in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers.
The local demonstration has been peaceful all along.
But counter-protesters also have begun to make an appearance in downtown Missoula. They waved American flags and Trump banners, and some carried guns in an alleged attempt to prevent looting and violence, neither of which have occurred.
Engen said the Missoula Police Department will continue to keep a distance, though that could change if either side of the demonstration escalates into something more than a peaceful expression of views.
“We don’t want to have officers in the middle of all that, but we’re all over the place and paying attention in case things escalate,” he said, adding that Missoula Police Chief Jaeson White and Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott are in close communication and working with other agencies.
“So we’ve got an ops plan,” Engen said. “The biggest challenge now is just sort of addressing the relentless rumor that’s being propagated via the web.”