Missoula law enforcement: ‘We’re prepared’ to address any civil unrest

Local law enforcement responded to an event that played out in downtown Missoula in 2019. The police and sheriff’s department on Wednesday said they’d be prepared to respond to any civil unrest related to the presidential inauguration. (Martin Kidston/Missoula Current file photo)

Two days after Missoula Mayor John Engen ensured the City Council that law enforcement would be ready to respond to any unrest around the presidential inauguration, local law enforcement confirmed they will work to keep the peace.

In a joint statement on Wednesday, Missoula Police Chief Jaeson White and Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott confirmed that their agencies would be prepared to respond to any civil insurrection that unfolds around next Wednesday’s traditional swearing in ceremony.

“We have a common goal to uphold the laws governing our county to serve and protect our community members,” McDermott said. “Our collaboration with the Missoula Police Department, which frequently happens throughout the year, is an asset for both agencies and the communities we serve.”

The FBI issued a warning earlier this week that armed extremist groups were planning another uprising after last week’s insurrection in Washington, D.C.

The warning included intelligence that extreme right-wing groups including the Boogaloo Boys, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, planned to hit government buildings around the country ahead of president-elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in ceremony.

Engen on Monday said local law enforcement had seen “nothing credible” to suggest that any major events were planned in Missoula. But city and county law enforcement said they were preparing just in case.

The preparedness and response of law enforcement during last week’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol has been widely criticized.

“We fully support the Constitution of the United States, as well as the Constitution of the State of Montana, that includes the freedom of speech, and the freedom to peacefully assemble,” Chief White said. “However, we do not support violence and will enforce the law. Working together with Sheriff McDermott and the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, we are prepared to address any civil unrest that may occur.”

Amber Conger, the communications director for the Montana Department of Administration, told local media that security has been increased in the state Capitol.

“Our security team is actively monitoring the situation. We are working with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners to address any potential issues if they arise here at the Montana State Capitol,” Conger told the Helena Independent Record in an email.

Missoula law enforcement heeds FBI warning, plans for possible extremist uprising