How—and why—Missoula progressives could reclaim guns for the left – Missoula Independent

Imagine it’s six months from now. Your Facebook feed, never mind the newspapers, is still filled with foreign bombings, murky hints of Russian interference and reactionary analysis of the president’s tweets. Just under the surface of mainstream discourse, alt-right groups continue to exacerbate tensions, engaging in public fist fights with anti-fascists and trolling the Internet with hate speech.

As an engaged citizen, you’ve attended local resistance efforts, marching in support of science and open borders. Such demonstrations have been happening with at least monthly regularity, so it’s no surprise you’ve begun hearing rumblings about plans for a far-right counter-demonstration in Missoula. You’re skeptical—the neo-Nazis who announced their protest of a Jewish real estate agent in Whitefish turned out to be a false alarm, after all.

As the scheduled day approaches, the group amps up its rhetoric. They start talking about carrying firearms openly, about showing Missoula what the alt-right is really made of. You try to brush off the implied threat, but it becomes harder and harder to unknot your stomach.

The day finally arrives. The whole city is anxious. This time, they actually show up.

Crowds of MAGA-hat-wearing young men (and a few women) swarm downtown. Some are sieg heiling, others hoist signs featuring Nazi symbology. Many of them are carrying: pistols, shotguns, semi-automatic rifles. In assembling, armed, they are exercising their rights—open carry and public protest are perfectly legal in Montana. And yet their presence feels clearly like a threat. The police are aware, of course—the demonstrators received the proper permits—but shy of actual violence there’s nothing the cops can do.

click to enlarge cover illustration by Charlie Wybierala

Counter-protesters soon show up and line the streets. Paleoconservatives and neo-Nazis hurl insults at the spectrum of anti-Trump Missoulians. Resisters hurl insults back.

Then a shot rings

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