The Black Lives Matter protests in downtown Missoula have been peaceful for the past 10 days, however the presence of some armed citizens in the area has resulted in concerned calls to the police department and the mayor’s office.

Missoula Police Department Public Information Officer Travis Welsh explained the calls that have come into his office.

“We’ve had lots of conversations and lots of messages who have expressed concerns over those individuals,” said Welsh. “We’ve had officers who have spoken with them and we’ve had officers who have spoken with the protesters. Basically, what we are in the process of doing right now is number one; we want everybody to be able to exercise their Constitutional rights in peace without provocation and without disturbance.”

Welsh quoted the Montana Constitution to make his point.

“We’re finding that a lot of people are not familiar with part two, section 12 of the Montana Constitution which allows persons to openly carry firearms in public,” he said. “They’re also expressing concerns about individuals being in the area of the protests who are openly carrying those weapons.”

Welsh said police have been watching the two groups carefully.

“We’ve seen some interactions between the groups,” he said. “There are some that are saying that there is a definite divide between the two groups, and others who say that they have been communications between the two groups and that there are some understandings between the two groups, and whether they are two separate groups or one group with different ideas, however, we have not seen anything overt that we would classify as a crime.”

City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam told KGVO News on Tuesday that there has been very little talk publicly about attempting to defund the Missoula Police Department.

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