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Missoula police address rumors of outside groups; chief delivers message

Acknowledging the pain and anguish expressed by many Americans over the death of George Floyd, city officials on Wednesday pledged to protect the right of peaceful demonstrators expressing their views in downtown Missoula.

They also dispelled rumors that violent groups were heading to Missoula, saying intelligence from regional law enforcement agencies don’t support those claims.

“The police department has been aware of some information about potential outside agitators coming into Missoula and infiltrating our peaceful demonstrations,” Police Chief Jaeson White said in a video release Wednesday. “We didn’t want to come out with information until we were able to validate what’s coming out. As of today, we have no credible evidence that’s true.”

Rumors have been circulating on social media that outside groups are coming to Missoula as a result of the ongoing local protests over the death of Floyd.

The Missoula Police Department earlier in the day said on social media that “despite several rumors of violent protest groups coming to Missoula, we have not been able to confirm any such information.”

The protests and rallies started on Friday in front of the Missoula County Courthouse following the lethal arrest of Floyd by police in Minneapolis. Missoula police said the protests in Missoula remain peaceful.

Missoula Mayor John Engen vowed to defend the right of peaceful protesters. He acknowledge the pain and anguish caused by Floyd’s death at the hands of law enforcement officials.

“We find that to be appalling and we also believe that sort of systemic violence and racism must come to an end in our country,” Engen said. “But today we’re in the business of ensuring that people who are peaceful demonstrating can exercise their First Amendment rights and participate in this democracy that we love in hopes that the world can change and be better for all of us.”