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Dems call for Gianforte to reconsider flag proclamation

by Darrell Ehrlick Daily Montanan
| January 12, 2021 6:00 PM

Democrats in the Montana Senate are urging Gov. Greg Gianforte to order flags across the state to be lowered to half staff, following a proclamation by President Donald J. Trump.

Senate Minority Leader Jill Cohenour of East Helena asked Gianforte to reconsider his decision not to lower flags in honor of U.S. Capitol Police Officers Brian Sicknick, who was killed in action during last week’s riot, and Howard Liebengood who died while off duty several days later. Cohenour sent a letter to the governor on Tuesday afternoon.

The order, signed by Trump and in effect from Jan. 10- 13, was to honor not just Capitol Police and Sicknick, but “all … law enforcement across this great Nation.”

In a statement to the media, Gianforte’s office said that “he unequivocally stands with law enforcement officers and against violent protesters.”

His office said that while it’s aware of the proclamation, it is not issuing a flag order.

“Gov. Gianforte appreciates the service and sacrifice of the U.S. Capitol Police, men and women whom he saw every day, and mourns the loss of Officers Sicknick and Liebengood who lost their lives from defending the capitol,” said Press Secretary Brooke Stroyke. “Since the courageous fallen officers had no ties to the state, the decision was reached in consultation with the Department of Administration staff to keep our flags at full staff.

“We are in the process of reviewing our flag protocols.”

Cohenour said that she read a statement of support on Monday in the Senate, and was shocked that governor hadn’t issued the order. On Tuesday, she sent a letter urging Gianforte to reconsider his action and lower the flags.

Cohenour’s passion for the topic stems from being married to a Montana Highway Patrol officer.

“I am super disappointed that this issue has become partisan,” Cohenour told the Daily Montanan Tuesday. “I take this issue to heart and I am always wanting to show respect and support for those who take care of us and our community and put their lives on the line.”

Stroyke noted that Cohenour and other Democrat leaders met with the governor on Monday, but did not bring up the issue then.

“Cohenour unfortunately has opted to fish for likes and attention on Twitter amid this national tragedy,” Stroyke said.

Montana Democrats said they reached out to Gianforte’s office on Monday to inquire about the proclamation and flag status only to be told that was something that Gianforte was not going to order. The letter was meant as a plea for reconsideration, Cohenour said.

“We still have a couple of days left where we can show law enforcement staff respect for those who would put their own lives on the line for us,” Cohenour said.

Stroyke said that no legislator, including Cohenour, had raised the issue directly with the governor or her.

“We first saw Cohenour’s letter via Twitter,” Stroyke said.

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan