A boisterous crowd representing both sides of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump took to the streets — literally, at some points — of Missoula on Tuesday.
On the eve of the U.S. House vote on impeachment in Washington, D.C., Missoula police continually herded protesters back to the sidewalks on East Front Street in front of Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ local office.
At one point nearly an hour into the dueling rallies a red SUV forced its way out of the parking lot and through a knot of demonstrators, where most of those waving and chanting in favor of impeachment were amassed. Witnesses said four people were hit, though no one was injured.
Some people pounded on the car as it barged onto the street.
“The car was just leaving the parking lot,” Lt. J.C. Denton of the Missoula Police Department said. "Some people say it may have bumped them. There were no injuries. We’re looking into it, and we took a report."
The opposing groups, numbering more than 200 at the peak of the rally, showed up for one of more than 500 “Impeach and Remove” rallies across the nation and elsewhere in Montana, including in Hamilton, Kalispell and Whitefish.
The rallies were organized by groups like MoveOn.org and the Democratic group Stand Up America, which says on its website that its community began in the weeks after the 2016 election and has focused on “strengthening our democracy across the country, standing up to Trump’s corruption and pushing Congress to draft articles of impeachment and vote to impeach Donald Trump.”
Missoula County’s Republican Party committee leaders organized the counter rally, with at least a third of the crowd waving flags, standing and chanting in support of Trump.
“I’m sure other communities are doing the same thing,” said Keith Baer of Missoula, a Republican committee member. “It’s important to show our support for President Trump. There’s absolutely nothing proved as far as wrongdoing where President Trump is concerned. President Trump is meeting with results. Better employment, protection for the country, opening up markets.”
At first the two sides intermingled, sometimes exchanging heated words. As dusk turned to dark and traffic on the busy street increased, some crossed to the south side of the street and Trump supporters were pushed to the side.
“It’s a nice mix. I just hope it’s peaceful and everyone respects one another,” said John Cummings, who held a pro-impeachments sign with battery-powered light bulbs across the top. “We both have a right to be here.”
Cummings said he’s done a lot of gay rights work.
“You learn in Montana you’ve got to be out there if you’re doing gay rights work. So this is a good way to do this here,” he said.
“I’m from New York, and when he was doing his thing there — didn’t want to pay people, bankruptcy, bankruptcy, bankruptcy — it was a big hit on the city,” said Tom Marino of Missoula. “To a lot of people, when you mention Trump, it’s a four-letter word. Now he’s doing it to the country.”
Debbie Woodahl stood on the other side of the street and took an opposing view.
“He’s the best president we’ve ever had in this country and he’s been wrongly accused before he was even elected,” she said. “We stand with him and support him 100%.”
Her husband, Doug, said he wasn’t sure what good all the shouting and sign-waving was doing.
“But we knew these guys were going to do this, so we decided to come down and support our president. If nothing else we’ll let them know that he’s got a lot of support.”
Montana’s lone House member, Greg Gianforte, will weigh in on the impeachment vote Wednesday. His position on impeachment is well-known.
“Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, and House Democrats have been obsessed with overturning the results of the 2016 election since President Trump was elected,” Gianforte said Tuesday in a statement to the Missoulian. “Nancy Pelosi claimed a vote to impeach President Trump would need bipartisan support, but because they failed to make the case, they have none. The American people see through Democrats’ hyper-partisan impeachment efforts, which have been a sham since day one.”
But Cummings and 125 or so other Missoulians took issue with that opinion.
“I can’t imagine when they swear to defend the Constitution and then they don’t want any witnesses in the Senate,” said Cummings. “They just want a show trial. It doesn’t sound right to me.”
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