Opinion

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Letter

A New Normal for Peaceful Gatherings?

Who is responsible for “ensuring safety for the entire community?”

According to reporting in the Flathead Beacon concerning the recent peaceful Black Lives Matter gathering at Depot Park, the leader of a local group called the Flathead Patriot Guard said the presence of his armed followers was “to make sure that this event, this protest, is conducted as safely as possible for the protesters. That’s our whole goal of being out here. We want to ensure safety for the entire community.” How noble of them! How heroic!

All of this begs the question: Who is responsible for “ensuring safety for the entire community?” A group of heavily armed vigilantes with no legal right to assume this role, or the organization we in the community pay taxes for to carry out that function, the Kalispell Police Department? Why have the city of Kalispell and its sworn law enforcement officers apparently ceded the responsibility for maintaining public order to an unauthorized and, arguably, dangerous group? What would have provoked them to lose it and open fire? That a gaggle of armed civilians would have the gall to presume that they can carry out a critically important function that should be left to the police is troubling.

One must wonder how the presence of a bunch of heavily-armed, grumpy pseudo-patriots could in any way make such a gathering more safe through their unwanted involvement. Is this going to be the new normal for peaceful gatherings in Kalispell? Vigilantes and guns?

Mark Holston
Kalispell