A white Montana man was arrested after he was filmed aggressively approaching a young Black woman and several others during a George Floyd protest on June 3.
Jay Snowden had an ax to grind with a peaceful group of protesters in Whitefish, Montana. A video taken by witness Reidar J Johnson showed the 51-year-old yelling in people’s faces and slapping signs out of their hands. At the end of the clip, Snowden slapped Johnson’s phone out of his hand. Despite Snowden’s behavior, the protesters did not get violent and repeatedly chanted “peaceful.”
Snowden only left when a police officer intervened. The officer walked up to him, gently tugged his arm and led him away.
A picture taken by Grace Jensen shows Snowden shouting in a Black woman’s face. Instead of retreating, the woman, identified as Samantha Francine, stares directly into Snowden’s eyes.
“Calm, collected, ready for a revolution,” Jensen captioned the photo on Facebook. In Johnson’s video, Francine removed her sunglasses to stare into Snowden’s eyes. The video was viewed more than 550,000 times and Jensen’s photo was shared by more than 100 people.
Francine told CNN her late father’s teachings helped her maintain her composure. Before her interview, she shared she is biracial and was raised by a single white father.
“He raised us to always, no matter what, no matter who the threat is, no matter what the threat is, that you look them in the eye so that they know you’re human,” she explained. “In that moment, when that man was screaming in my face, I don’t think I felt fear.”
Francine admitted she was still processing the incident, but she sensed Snowden was lashing out because he was scared.
“I saw fear in his eyes and I knew he wasn’t gonna hurt me,” she continued. “I knew that he was just upset and uncomfortable. So, I stood my ground and it got captured in such a beautiful way.”
She expressed Snowden was “looking for a fight” and had been driving by to yell at the group before he approached them. Francine said he wasn’t the only vocal critic of the demonstration.
“In small-town Montana, people don’t realize that racism still exists. There’s a lot of ignorance here,” Francine admitted. “We’ve had a lot of people angry about what we were doing. He was the first one to come up to us and let us know that they weren’t happy about it.”
Whitefish, Montana, is a town of 7,070 people and 97.7 percent of residents are white, according to figures from Data USA. Only 0.0141 percent of residents are Black. White people make up 85.9 percent of the population in Montana, while Black Montanans account for only 0.461 percent of the state’s citizenry.
Francine said she had no “malice in my heart” toward Snowden and sent a gift basket to his wife.
Snowden was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, Whitefish Police said in a press release. He has a court appearance scheduled for June 17.