A peaceful protest in a small Montana resort town turned ugly Wednesday night when a visibly angry man confronted demonstrators, yelling at them while standing only inches away from their faces.
In a video shared on social media, a man is seen yelling profanities at a group of demonstrators supporting Black Lives Matter in Whitefish, about 60 miles from the Canadian border.
The man, identified by police as Jay Snowden, 51, is clearly agitated and becomes increasingly so as the group starts chanting “peaceful!” to drown out his yelling.
In a powerful image shared by Samantha Francine, who is one of the protesters, Snowden, a tall white man, is seen looking down on a much smaller Francine while she looks up into his eyes, holding a poster that reads “Say Their Names.”
Francine, who is biracial, told CNN that in that heated moment with Snowden standing inches away from her face, she felt no fear.
The 27-year-old protester said the words of her white father, who died 16 years ago, ran through her head: “No matter who the threat is, no matter what the threat is, you look them in the eye so that they know you’re human.”
“In that moment, I felt those words that my father spoke to me from such a young age and I saw fear in his eyes and I knew he wasn’t going to hurt me,” Francine said. “He was just upset and uncomfortable, so I just stood my ground and it got captured in such a beautiful way.”
Snowden was ultimately removed from the scene by police. Later, after police consulted with the Whitefish city prosecutor, he was charged with disorderly conduct,Whitefish police said in a statement posted on social media. He is expected in court on June 17.
“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.
CNN has reached out to Snowden but he did not respond to CNN’s request for comment. It’s not clear if he has an attorney.
Asked about how she feels about the way people viewed the incident, Francine said, “I have gone through so much, experienced so much the last 27 years and in that moment everything I’ve gone through made sense.”
She said that every person who’s yelled at her like that, every person who’s hurt her feelings, let her down or embarrassed her led her to that moment. “I was surrounded by so many awesome people in that moment and there was such an incredible energy—I just knew what to do,” she said.
Francine said she has no malice in her heart toward Snowden and in fact delivered a gift basket to his wife on Saturday to let her know that she knows his wife doesn’t embody her husband.
Ninety-seven percent of of Whitefish’s population of 8,000 identifies as white, according to a 2019 census.