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Missoula mayor responds to protests

John Engen.jpeg
Posted at 5:22 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 01:45:59-04

MISSOULA — This is the sixth day in a row protesters are lining up in Missoula, and while there have been a few counter-protesters, Missoula mayor John Engen said he believes these demonstrations will remain non-violent.

In an interview with KPAX on Wednesday, Engen said there is a contingency plan in place, just in case violence erupts.

"There's just so much going on in the world today, it's really hard to know," he said.

In response to concerns that militant left-wing groups will disrupt Missoula's peaceful protests, Engen said, "We're prepared, but we don't perceive a threat today."

He also said he hopes the demonstrations will bring about change.

"Violence unprovoked against any human being is not the business of a police force," Engen said.

In a city council meeting on Monday, Engen said the city shares a collective outrage and concern over police brutality.

"We can always get better, and we are going to do that," he said.

On Tuesday, protester Jay Mattson told KPAX he does feel safe in Missoula, but knows what it's like to feel unsafe.

"I turned 16, I got my learner's permit to drive, and two weeks after that was when I first almost got shot by the police," Mattson said, adding that the incident made him feel like he has no control. "You realize that your life is 100 percent out of your hands, and in the hands of somebody else."

The Missoula Police Department plans to update its use of force and implicit bias training, according to Engen.

"I want people of color to know that they are safe in the hands of Missoula's finest," Engen said.

Engen also made it clear that if any Missoula police officer violates any policy, there are consequences.

"Our officers know that they're not above the law, and don't intend to be above the law," he said.

In a joint statement put out on Saturday, the city of Missoula and local law enforcement said they stand in solidarity against racism and acts of discrimination. Engen and police chief Jaeson White delivered a public message today in response to the protests and their effects on Missoula. You can watch that video here.