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Rainbows, Hellfires and Pepper Spray

The Independent looks back at Y2K in photos

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Oh, what a year. And we all thought the biggest and brightest fireworks of the year would explode on New Year’s Eve. Alas, even the apocalyptic techno-prophets who predicted an implosion of the world’s financial institutions, a collapse of global communications networks and an end to the timely distribution of salty snack foods as we know it all proved groundless. Even the Y2K Superstore outside of Hamilton has since been transmogrified into a kindler, gentler pizza establishment.

But the year 2000 was anything but kind or gentle to Montanans, nor to our invited—and uninvited—guests. Whether it was the onslaught of the National Rainbow Family who put a crow bar to the closed minds of their conservative brethren, the unmuffled roar of Hells Angels choppers, the lingering sting of pepper spray, the burning throats and bloodshot eyes of forests and homes ablaze or the foul aftertaste of a bitterly contested election season, Montanans had more than their share of nasty conflagrations.

Captured by the relentless shutter and assiduous camerawork of staff photographer Chad Harder, what follows are the images that ignited our passions and inflamed our sensibilities, the signs—both figurative and literal—that caught our eye and the faces that made 2000 a year to remember.

“A measured tactical response:”


170 officers from more than two dozen outside agencies
20 Montana Highway Patrol
70 FBI agents and technicians
49 police cars
14 motorcycles
6 police dogs
2 helicopters
83 arrests
zero tolerance for violations of the law.

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