UPDATE at 1:50 p.m.

KGVO News has learned that 'Montanans in Solidarity with Palestine' was the group responsible for draping the iconic ‘M’ on Mt. Sentinel before the Grizzly Bobcat game in red, green, and black.

KGVO spoke to UM Police Chief Brad Giffin who said defacing the ‘M’ in such a manner is not a criminal offense, but rather a violation of University of Montana policy, so UM’s Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz shared important information about what will happen going forward.

Pro Palestine Group Claims Responsibility for Draping the 'M' in Red, Black and Green

“The violation that occurred on the ‘M’ is a violation of university policy and procedure, so it's not a legal situation, but rather something of the university's governing policies,” began Kuntz. “That is the question here, and to answer your question, there's not a lot that the university can do in terms of any sort of punishment for violating this ‘facilities use policy’, especially if the folks who are responsible for this are not students.”

Kuntz said since an incident like the has not happened in recent memory, the university will use it as a learning tool going forward, to be ready in case another group decides to co-opt the ‘M’ for its own uses.

There is no Legal Violation, but the Action Violated UM Policy

“How we can be better at protecting those places from being used for some sort of expression or something that violates the policies, is the question,” he said. “So there's not going to be a lot that can be done in terms of retrospect or any sort of punishment from the university, but rather, we're really going to use this as a learning opportunity and be better prepared for next time that somebody tries to use university property in a way that's not in line with our policies.”

Kuntz added that the university would definitely have denied Montanans in Solidarity with Palestine, or any other group to use the ‘M’ for it’s own publicity, but rather to redirect the activity to the campus itself, which would have been welcomed, if they had asked permission to do so.

“We certainly would have declined permission to do anything up at the ‘M’, but we would have really encouraged them to take advantage of the oval, by going out there at lunchtime when there's the highest volume of students, providing them access to a table and even some microphones and speakers if they had requested,” he said. “We want dialogue on our campus. We want free speech, we want free expression. It just needs to be done in ways that are most beneficial to the university, and that doesn’t put any of our places or any of our classrooms or learning spaces at risk.”

Kuntz said several volunteers had to interrupt their post-game duties to climb the 'M' and remove the green, red, and black tarps.

Montanans in Solidarity with Palestine Issued the Statement Below

Montanans in Solidarity with Palestine, who strongly condemned the recent anti-Semitic demonstrations that occurred in Missoula several weeks ago, issued the following statement received by KGVO on Monday regarding the weekend protest at the ‘M’.

 We are Montanans proud to stand with the Palestinian people, and we are dedicated to nonviolence in order to stop violence. We covered the M on Saturday because it best symbolizes our identity and our mission. In our teach-in last week someone asked Kholoud, a Palestinian activist in Lebanon, “How can we best be in solidarity with the Palestinian people?” In response she asked that we raise the Palestinian flag as often and as high as we can. The Cat/Griz game was an opportunity to send a message to the 27,000 in attendance, including Jon Tester and Ryan Zinke, that we will hold them accountable for their failure to stop the unfolding genocide of the Palestinian people of Gaza. We demand that they work for a ceasefire now, end US military aid to Israel, and end the siege on Gaza. Their silence is complicity and we will remember in November.

We are horrified at the rhetoric openly advocating for genocide and ethnic cleansing coming from the highest levels of the Israeli government. The Israeli Intelligence Minister said on Sunday the international community should promote "the voluntary resettlement" of Palestinians outside the Gaza Strip. This followed a comment by the Agriculture Minister that the war would be “Gaza’s Nakba,” referring to the 1948 ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians from what became Israel. Finally, the Heritage Minister, a member of the racist Jewish Power party, told an Israeli station radio station a few weeks ago that dropping an atomic bomb on Gaza "is one of the possibilities." These are openly genocidal statements. All Montanans of conscience should call their representatives today and tell them they will not vote for someone who does not oppose genocide. This is a mainstream position and a clear red line.

Second report at 12:21 p.m.

Montanans in Solidarity with Palestine has claimed responsibility for draping the ‘M’ on Saturday. A spokesman for the organization made it clear that they had absolutely no connection to the anti-Semitic protesters in Missoula several weeks ago that caused disturbances in several areas around Missoula, including the County Courthouse, Har Shalom, and the walking bridge over Reserve Street.

First report at 8:33 a.m.

Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - The dense fog that enveloped Washington Grizzly Stadium on Saturday during the ‘Brawl of the Wild’, also, for the most part, kept fans and University officials from seeing the iconic ‘M’ on Mount Sentinel draped in pro-Palestine colors of red, green, and black.

KGVO News spoke with UM Director of Strategic Communications Dave Kuntz late Saturday afternoon about the protest.

Pro-Palestine Colors Covered the 'M' on Mount Sentinel on Saturday

“There was some protesting done up on the M, which included some tarps that were likely put up overnight in support of Palestine,” began Kuntz. “As folks who were on campus on Saturday knew there was a really intense inversion, and so it was about game time when university officials discovered the protest, and we're able to get the tarps down shortly after the game once security officers were able to get up to the ‘M’ after Washington Grizzly Stadium had largely vacated.”

Kuntz said the University of Montana neither promoted nor allowed any group to use the iconic ‘M’ for the purpose of a protest.

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The University of Montana Does Not Allow the 'M' to be Used for Protests

“It's not too unusual that people use the large attendance of games to do some sort of protest or free speech event, but obviously actions like this violate the university's policy and so we worked to get those tarps down as quickly as possible,” he said.

Kuntz said an investigation is underway to determine who was responsible for the defacing of the ‘M’ as a pro-Palestinian statement.

UM Police are Conducting an Investigation of the Defacing of the 'M'

“University Police Department officials will take a look and gather what evidence they can,” he said. “Obviously, this likely happened overnight (Friday), so I'm not sure what sort of evidence is out there. But we will look through social media and all sorts of public documentation sites to try to identify (whoever might be responsible). It's something we're going to look into and make sure that we can do our due diligence to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again.”

Kuntz said the investigation was just getting underway after the football game on Saturday.

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