Given the choice between leaving private property and being cited with criminal trespass, seven people chose the latter in order to put their stamp on a protest Friday that drew about 30 people to the Montana Republican Party's Missoula office on Brooks Street.
Several signs and banners protesting Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court went up around Missoula this week. Word of a coming protest had spread in recent days, although the location was not known until members of the Western Montana chapter of Democratic Socialists of America and Missoula Rises organizations descended upon the GOP office shortly before 2 p.m.
There, fewer than 10 staged a sit-in inside the office, where they were locked inside until police arrived.
"We're just obviously very upset about this whole Kavanaugh thing and how Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was treated," said Tootie Welker, one of the main organizers from DSA in Friday's protest.
Welker told Missoula City police she spent 30 years working toward ending violence against women, and had been deeply effected by Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh.
"I have thousands of women's stories in me, and they just bubble up when you hear stuff like that," she said. "The outrage you feel — you have to do something."
At the very least, protesters were able to close the GOP office for the remainder of the afternoon. Kelsey Cooley, regional field director for the Montana Republican Party, said the police told her she would have to close up shop once the protest was over, so police wouldn't have to return if issues arose again.
"The fact of the matter is it's totally fine for them to protest outside," she said. "I have no problem with that, they're peaceful, but the thing is they interrupted my business activities for the day. I can no longer interact with constituents, register people to vote, or anything without them being intimidated by protesters being in my office."
After the protesters entered the office, Missoula County GOP Chairman Vondene Kopetski locked the door behind her as she and Cooley left. She unlocked the door again after media members arrived.
At no point Friday did things turn aggressive between the protesters, GOP staff or police. Missoula Police Sgt. Patrick Erbacher grabbed a chair and sat with the protesters inside the office for some time, hearing their points of contention with Kavanaugh's nomination and talking them through the legal proceedings that would likely follow if they chose not to comply with his request they leave the property.
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"You guys aren't doing anything violent, you're not here smashing windows," he told them. "I'm sorry, but it's private property."
Outside a few dozen protesters held a huge "BELIEVE SURVIVORS" sign. They were joined by a man protesting across Brooks Street with 15 signs with the faces of Kavanaugh, Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte, who was depicted with an orange jumpsuit and devil horns.
"Kavanaugh's disgusting, that's why we're disrupting," protesters shouted inside the building.
"Donald Trump, you shut up, we don't want this cover-up," shouted the protesters outside.
"Go home," one man yelled at the protesters from the parking lot.
Debra Lamm, chair of the Montana Republican Party, weighed in on the protest late Friday with a prepared statement.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, and Kathleen Williams, the Democrat running against Gianforte "represent the Liberal Resistance here in Montana and they'll do whatever it takes to stop President Trump — but we're not going to let that happen. The people of Montana stand behind Brett Kavanaugh and we're going to confirm him to the Supreme Court," she wrote.
After given the choice on how to proceed, the protesters inside the building agreed to leave peacefully, but on their own terms. They exited the building and read a prepared statement over a megaphone, then seven were cited with criminal trespass, a misdemeanor, Erbacher said.
John Decker, one of the DSA members cited, said he disapproved of Kavanaugh's nomination before Ford's allegations came to light, primarily due to Kavanaugh's support of corporations.
"I feel like we drove a wedge at the closest point of contact," DSA member Josh Decker said after receiving his ticket. "We're raising the flagpole locally."