WHITEFISH, Mont. - A peaceful protest Whitefish, Mont. became the site of a viral confrontation when a man was filmed cursing at protesters and attempting to damage their signs as the demonstrators chanted, “peaceful! peaceful!”
Footage of the June 4 incident was published on Instagram. (Warning: video contains foul language.)
“This is why we are here,” read the caption for the video posted by the Instagram account “charlesnorthwest.”
The man was identified as 51-year-old Jay Snowden, a resident of the town. Snowden would later be charged with one count of disorderly conduct, according to the Whitefish Police Department.
In the video, Snowden appears to yell obscenities at protesters while pointing his finger in their faces and hitting their signs. At one point in the video, it appears that someone knocks Snowden’s hat off his head before being escorted away by police.
"The City of Whitefish is dedicated to protecting the First Amendment rights of individuals to peacefully protest and ask all who are involved to respect each other's rights and protest peacefully," police said.
Just a few days after the altercation, a photo emerged on Facebook which showed Snowden looking down and glaring into the eyes of a younger protester, Samantha Francine, just inches away from her face.
Francine shared the photo of her and Snowden, writing, “As a child, I grew up with a single white father and who was originally from Chicago. He taught us from a young age that things were going to be different for us just because of the color of our skin. One of the things he use to remind us constantly was that ‘no matter the threat, always look them in the eye so they have to acknowledge you’re human.’”
The powerful image of the encounter was captured by Grace Jensen, a friend of Francine’s. It has been since been shared over 11,000 times on social media.
Regardless of the confrontation, Francine said that she has “no malice” in her heart for Snowden.
“I hope this moment will soften him. I hope he will be changed. But even if he isn’t, I am. Yes I had power this day, but I couldn’t have done it without all of the courageous people around me," Francine wrote.
Confrontations like the one between Snowden and Francine have become a common sight at peaceful protests that have erupted across the country since the death of George Floyd.
A 64-year-old woman and licensed attorney was arrested for the second time in two days after a video was published on Facebook which showed her spitting on a black teenager during an anti-racism protest in Milwaukee.
Video published by Caress Gonzalez Ramirez shows the woman — later identified by police as Stephanie Rapkin — surrounded by protesters who appear to be chanting at her. In the video, Rapkin then appears to spit in the face of one of the protesters.
Police said the woman had been arrested and booked over this incident, but that they were unable to transport her to Milwaukee County Jail due to the facility’s “current policies pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
This story was reported from Los Angeles.