Whitefish, Montana, Man Arrested After Disrupting Peaceful Protest on Video

Jay Snowden 1

Facebook/Reidar J Johnson Jay Snowden, 51, was caught on video berating peaceful protesters in Whitefish, Montana, last week.

Jay Snowden is a 51-year-old man who was caught on video berating and disrupting peaceful protesters demonstrating against police violence in Whitefish, Montana, last week.

In a video posted to Facebook by Reidar Johnson, Snowden can be seen approaching a group of Black Lives Matter supporters protesting in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody.

Snowden launches into a profane tirade, grabs at protesters’ signs and is eventually led away by a police officer. The video of the incident has gone viral and resulted in a misdemeanor charge against Snowden.

Here are five things you need to know about Jay Snowden and the video of his confrontation with Black Lives Matter protesters.

1. Snowden Screamed “F–k All You Guys” & Grabbed At Protesters’ Signs.

Snowden fairly looms over many of the protesters as he leans into their faces and begins his tirade by shouting, “Black lives matter? F–k you!”

A couple of male protesters appear to try and engage Snowden, although it’s unclear whether they are trying to calm him down. Snowden swats at a few signs, moving from protester to protester and shouting, “F–k all you guys!”

Throughout the confrontation, it’s difficult to make out everything said between Snowden and the crowd, as the protesters continually chant, “Peaceful! Peaceful!”

Eventually, a police officer approaches Snowden, puts his hand on his shoulder and tries to calm him down, before leading him away from the crowd. One protester appears to knock Snowden’s hat off his head, enraging him. One person, Reidar Johnson, recording the confrontation has his phone knocked out of his hand by Snowden. “This is the problem right here,” Johnson wrote on Facebook. “F—-r threw my phone.”

2. At One Point, Snowden Gets Into A Petite Young Woman’s Face. Samantha Francine Has Been Lauded Online For Showing Grace & Courage In The Moment.

Twenty-seven-year-old Samantha Francine held a sign reading, “Say their names,” at the protest and was approached by Snowden, who began shouting in her face. Francine is bi-racial, she wrote in a Facebook post following the confrontation.

Francine said that she was raised by a single white father, who warned her and her siblings that they would be treated differently because of the color of their skin. She thought back to her father — now deceased, according to Francine — when she stared up at Snowden during the protest.

“He was acting out of fear, I know that,” Francine wrote. “I hold no malice in my heart for this man. 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. We are stronger united and in this moment, I felt that.”

Francine’s post has garnered 22,000 reactions and 11,000 shares on Facebook so far. Comments have ranged from calling Francine an inspiration to calling her a “light in a time of such darkness.”

She told CBS News that when she first saw the photo online, she thought it was powerful, but didn’t immediately register that it was of her.

“This looks like this is — should be in the Civil Rights Movement,” Francine said. “Why is this happening now? I wish I didn’t have to be in that photo. I wish that the world was different. But since I’m in that photo, I want to own it. And I want to live it.”

Heavy reached out to Francine for further comment, but had not heard back as of Tuesday afternoon.

3. Whitefish Police Say They Have Charged Snowden With Disorderly Conduct — A Misdemeanor Charge.

After Snowden was removed from the protest without violence, local police met with city prosecutors, NBC Montana reported.

In a news release, Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial and Assistant Chief Bridger Kelch announced that they were charging Snowden with disorderly conduct.

Police acknowledged that peaceful protests were ongoing in Whitefish, with 60 to 70 people participating.

“During last night’s protest, an individual became confrontational with the protesters and police intervened, removing the individual from the scene,” they wrote. “The subject … was charged with one count of disorderly conduct this morning after Whitefish Police consulted with the Whitefish city prosecutor.”

Snowden is first due in court on June 17, according to police, who added that the city respects peaceful protests.

In Montana, a disorderly conduct conviction can result in a $100 fine and/or 10 days in the county jail, according to state law.

4. Whitefish’s Population Of 7,000 People Is About 98% White — But Protesters Have Been A Steady, Peaceful Presence By City Hall.

Whitefish, MT

Getty/Craig MooreThe crowd at the Black Star Beer Barter in Whitefish, Montana, in February 2012.

Whitefish is an overwhelmingly white community, according to information compiled by Data USA. Roughly 98 percent of the population identifies as white. One-and-a-half percent identifies as Latino, and only one resident identified as black or African American, according to the 2019 census data reviewed by Data USA.

The lack of diversity was reflected in some comments replying to the police department’s post indicating that Snowden would be charged.

“What are you protesting? Whitefish police killing black men, or maybe black bears,” one woman wrote.

Still, a group of protesters has gathered every day since June 1 in the majority-white town, local newspaper the Whitefish Pilot reported. The protesters have been peaceful, other than the incident with Snowden, Police Chief Bill dial told the paper.

“What happened in Minneapolis was horrendous, there’s no doubt,” Dial said. “We encourage people to go out and exercise their rights and do so peacefully, and we are proud of how these protests are being handled.”

4. Snowden Is A 51-Year-Old Seattle Native Who Moved To Whitefish, And Is Representing Himself In Court.

Facebook/Reidar J Johnson

According to a Facebook page that appears to belong to Snowden, he is originally from Seattle, Washington, but is now a Whitefish resident.

Online records indicate that Snowden lived in Seattle for most of his life and moved to Whitefish sometime between 2019 and 2020. He is the registered agent for Triple S Land Group, out of Whitefish, according to OpenCorporates records.

Heavy found Seattle Municipal Court records indicating Snowden has been charged with assault and domestic violence before, but records indicate the charges were dismissed in at least one case, and he was found not guilty in another.

Mary Barry, Whitefish’s deputy city attorney, said Tuesday that Snowden is representing himself in court. Heavy could not reach Snowden for comment by phone.

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