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Government & Politics

Bullock: First Amendment Rights Need To Be Protected

Attendees at the Bozeman Rally For Black Lives May 31, 2020 on May 31, 2020 used chalk to write the names of people who died while in police custody or from white supremacists.
Rachel Cramer
/
Yellowstone Public Radio
Attendees at the Bozeman Rally For Black Lives May 31, 2020 on May 31, 2020 used chalk to write the names of people who died while in police custody or from white supremacists.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says first amendment rights need to be protected as Pres. Donald Trump is calling for governors to respond with force to violent protests popping up around the nation in response to the death of George Floyd.

“We need to recognize that people across the country and indeed many Montanans are in pain," Bullock told reporters on a press call June 1 after sitting in on a call with the president but before Trump made public remarks later in the day. "And we need to protect avenues for people to express those first amendment rights. Doing so can be done lawfully and peacefully.”

Rallies in Floyd’s honor and against systemic racism have popped up in several Montana cities in recent days. Those haven’t turned violent. But nationwide, protests have sparked violent clashes between protesters and police.

On Monday Trump called for governors to deploy the National Guard, adding if they didn’t take actions to halt violent protests, he’d mobilize the military.

Billings rally organizer Amber Palmer expects a peaceful, socially distant event this weekend. She says it won’t require the National Guard.

“I don’t see the need when the protest is peaceful to deploy such serious, I guess, manpower against it," Palmer said.

She believes Trump’s comments are a reaction to the riots in larger cities and comes from a place of fear. The Billings protest begins Sunday at 1 P.M.

Judith Heilman is the founder and executive director of the Montana Racial Equity Project, a Bozeman-based non-profit that helped organize “Bozeman Rally for Black Lives” on Sunday that drew over 1,000 people.

In response to Trump’s remarks about law enforcement dominating the streets, Heilman said, I can speak to Montana about that and say, that’s not necessary.”