An armed man whose face was covered by a scarf was asked by police officers to leave a park during a rally to support the small Muslim community in Billings, Mont., on Saturday.
The Billings Gazette reports the man was openly carrying a weapon as he stood near a stand of trees watching the gathering in Pioneer Park of approximately 150 people. A scarf covered most of his face, however the weather was 25 degrees at the time, so some people purport his face covering was due to wind chill factors.
Women, including Christians, wore hijabs during the rally to show support for Billings' 50-person Muslim community, stated Associated Press.
Lt. Casey Hafner, of Billling's police department, was called after people in the crowd spotted the man. The officer said the man did not break any laws, and complied.
Police identified the man, but declined to release his name because he was not charged with a crime, according to the Gazette. City codes do not prohibit openly carrying a weapon in a city park, but they do prohibit guns at other sites, such as Billings City Council meetings.
Billed as "We are all Sisters," the gathering was held in the aftermath of the San Bernardino, Calif., shootings and the subsequent call by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
On the Billings Gazette Facebook page, one reader, Brian A. Reed called the masked man a "feckless coward."
"If you want to open carry to intimidate your fellow citizens, at least show your face," Reed stated.
Jamie Ford, another Gazette reader posted: "I like guns. I don't like jerks. Creeping around a bunch of Christian and Muslim women at a peace rally? Yes, that makes you a jerk."
The following perspective was offered by Doug Amundsen: "OK, let me get this straight, the fact he was open carrying (a lawful act) is not causing all the fear, it's the fact that he had a scarf over his face? (Like a Muslim?) Interesting..."
Adriane Nielsen said she thinks there could be two sides to the story. "Because the guy was off to the side and not a disruption to the group, it is possible that he felt the group might of been at risk for a threat and he possibly could of helped them if the group was under attack by a threat. I do not know his true reason for his presence, and hope he is supporting a group of individuals meeting in the park. It sounds like everyone involved was very kind and understanding, including the man with the protective weapon. Can't we just get along, or is it just something to complain about again until something else happens."
Sean Evans said he believes people are allowed to dress according to what they feel is comfortable and within reason. "It is absolutely legal to open carry in the state of Montana. This man is clearly exercising his right to stand aware and be prepared during a public gathering of a Muslim community, based upon recent events. Intimidation is the act of threat or causing fear, or to bully. It is okay to have concern for what may or may not possibly happen. I don't blame him one single bit for being cautious."