Climate Change Protesters Cited Outside Missoula Office of Daines

Fourteen activists were cited Friday with misdemeanor trespassing after staging a protest in the Missoula office of U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, according to an organizer.

"Our initial inkling was that we would get kicked out pretty quick," said organizer Corey Bressler. "That ended up not being the case."

Three groups concerned about climate change and the Republican senator's support for coal and the Keystone XL pipeline organized the event. After the sit-in, the Blue Skies Campaign, 350 Missoula and CAJA3 sent out a news release.

"We are here today because we want our elected representatives to stop greenlighting harmful industries such as coal exports and the Keystone XL pipeline, and to support renewable energy and a clean, sustainable economy," Meaghan Browne of Butte said in a statement.

"(Daines) has refused to engage in a meaningful dialogue to address the imminent dangers of human-caused climate change. That's why this act of civil disobedience is necessary," Jess Moore said in a statement.

In an email, Daines spokeswoman Alee Lockman said the senator welcomes Montanans who want to "engage in thoughtful and respectful conversations with us."

"Senator Daines appreciates Montanans taking time to share their views with him and our staff," Lockman said. "Some are looking for ways to sensationalize and drive media attention to causes that are important to them."

Lockman did not address whether the senator would meet with the group. Bressler said a staffer met with representatives earlier, but then ended further communication.

Some 70 people from Missoula, Superior, Butte, the Flathead Valley and elsewhere in Montana participated in the event, according to organizers. The group met at the library at 9:30 a.m. and went to Daines' office a half block away around 10 a.m.

Some read poetry, others created chalk art, and "14 really courageous people" marched into Daines' office, said Bressler, with Blue Skies. He said only a couple of employees were present at the time.

"They just tried to go about their business while we were chanting and hooting and hollering," Bressler said.

He said the protest remained peaceful. A couple of hours later, someone called the police, who issued the 14 citations, according to organizers.

The Missoula Police Department could not be reached Friday afternoon for comment.

Bressler said he anticipates most of the activists who were ticketed will plead not guilty in Missoula Municipal Court.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat, also has supported the Keystone pipeline and coal development. Bressler, though, said the group has yet to determine whether to organize an event at Tester's office.

He said the group sent an identical letter to Tester, and the Democrat has been more open to communication than Daines has been. 

"That was a much more constructive conversation," Bressler said.

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