HELENA – Great Falls was the center of attention in Montana this week, as thousands of people arrived at Montana ExpoPark for President Donald Trump’s rally on Thursday. A number of law enforcement agencies in the state offered assistance to local authorities, including the Helena Police Department and Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office.
“One of the coordinators called to see if Cascade County was going to need any help with everything going on, and volunteered some of our officers that were available,” said HPD Officer Britney Bergh.
Bergh was one of 15 members of HPD and LCSO’s joint Civil Disobedience Team who traveled to Great Falls for the rally. The team includes about 20 members, trained to handle crowd control, protests and other issues at that type of large event.
The Helena-area officers were not operating as a team on Thursday, but instead filling in in a variety of roles.
“We just went up and provided law enforcement assistance pretty much anywhere and everywhere we were needed,” said Bergh.
Some of the officers worked on the lines, as people waited to enter the Four Seasons Arena. Authorities say about 6,000 people watched the president’s speech, while several thousand more were not able to get seats inside.
“For that amount of people, being that hot – as you can imagine standing in the heat for that for hours and hours, tempers tend to flare, but I didn’t see much of that,” said LCSO Senior Deputy Don McCarthy. “Everybody was really calm and very nice to work with.”
McCarthy was also among a group of officers called on to separate anti-Trump protesters and Trump supporters, after some heated confrontations between the two groups.
“Once we got the groups with a separation of a few feet, it calmed down fairly quickly,” he said. “A lot of chanting; I actually didn’t even hear many people cussing. It was pretty mellow for what it was. A lot of opinions being thrown around, but it was fairly calm.”
Overall, officers said they believe the event ran smoothly. They said they were thankful for the chance to be involved with it.
“Especially being law enforcement in Montana, you don’t get that opportunity very often – to be that close to the presidential party and all the constituents and everything that comes along with it,” McCarthy said.
“It’s definitely once in a lifetime,” said Bergh. “As a law enforcement officer, getting that opportunity to be a part of that is awesome.”