by William Skink
Yesterday in downtown Missoula a fight broke out among some intoxicated homeless people outside Imagination Station, a local toy store. This is not a remarkable situation in Missoula, MT. There is a low-level of violence that occurs with disturbing frequency, but as long as it’s just homeless people beating each other up, there aren’t headlines or widespread calls to do what those of us familiar with the situation know needs to happen to improve our broken systems.
The employees at Imagination Station probably didn’t hashtag rise above fear like the rest of liberal Missoula did Tuesday at the support Syrian Refugees but remain oblivious to its cause rally yesterday evening. Probably because they were still dealing with that feeling of fight or flight when you feel directly threatened by a situation that’s out of control. People walking downtown a few weeks ago probably felt the same way when a fight nearly broke out outside Sushi Hana. Luckily that situation was deescalated by trained professionals (wink, wink).
Violence breaking out while Missoulians rally for peace and tolerance is not new. Six years ago, while the City Council was packed for a vote on the non-discrimination ordinance, a homeless man was beat to death literally a few hundred feet from where the vote was taking place, behind The Ox–that iconic Missoula bar that contributes mightily to alcohol abuse.
One of the assailants, Joey Gonzalez, was acquitted of the felonies he was facing, only to die of exposure a few years later, in Butte.
I’m glad people can get together and feel good about the beautiful, tolerant community they want to live in. My advice to them is just don’t dig too far underneath that pretty surface because you might not like what you find.