The Missoula City Attorney’s Office announced it is pressing charges against a man that allegedly detained a Black Lives Matter protester at a rally outside the county courthouse in early June.
48-year-old Mark David Belden faces misdemeanor charges for unlawful restraint and operating as a private security guard without a license. The Missoula County Attorney’s Office determined there was lack of probable cause for a felony hate crime.
According to the police report, Belden, who was armed and acting as personal security for some protest organizers, stopped an African-American man who was dressed in a hoody, gloves, sunglasses and facemask in an alley near the courthouse. Belden demanded identification, and the man refused. Law enforcement say the man turned to leave the situation, and Belden instigated a chase. The man was allegedly detained by a group of people until police arrived on the scene.
That event sparked a June 14 protest in Missoula, which featured speakers decrying “vigilantism” and private citizens wielding guns at Black Lives Matter rallies. They also called for meaningful change within the Missoula Police Department, including a ban on chokeholds, and mandatory anti-racism and de-escalation training.
Another rally is scheduled for July 25 at 12 p.m. Organizers say they’ll maintain social distance from in their cars.
Mark David Belden is ordered to appear in court on or before July 31. The unlawful restraint charge carries the maximum penalty of a $500 fine and six months in jail. The penalty for operating as a private security guard without a license can be up to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.
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