A shotgun-toting, flag-carrying masked man who was protesting in front of the Bozeman Islamic center on Monday afternoon sparked a quick police response. 

However, after agreeing to put the gun away, the man continued his protest for hours, marching in front of the center that is across the street from Bozeman High School.

According to Bozeman police Capt. Andy Knight, police were called to the area of the high school at about 11 a.m., after the man was seen carrying a shotgun and an American flag while marching back and forth in front of the Islamic Center of Bozeman, located behind the high school at 301 N. 15th Ave.

Police arrived within minutes and briefly detained and interviewed the man.

Knight said the man was compliant with officers, and they determined he hadn't committed any crimes, hadn't made any threats and was exercising his constitutional rights.

"He had a right to be in that area," Knight said.

The man agreed to put the shotgun in a vehicle, and he returned to silently marching in front of the center. He continued protesting until about 4:20 p.m., when he left in a truck with Gallatin County plates.

The high school was placed on lockdown for about 10 minutes after police were called, said principal Kevin Conwell, meaning that classroom and exterior doors were locked.

The man, whom police did not identify and who would not identify himself to a Chronicle reporter, said, "I'm one of many Americans who are awakening up. That's my name."

"I've already figured it out," he went on. "I'm just helping everyone else figure it out."

"Why do you think they don't have their name on the front (of the building)?" he asked of the Islamic center.

He said he tried to join the U.S. armed forces but was rejected because of his asthma. After a Chronicle reporter identified himself as an Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran, the man said, "Well look what all that good did for us. Now all the Muslims are in our homes. Maybe you didn't do a good enough job of containing the conflict."

Later in the day, the marching man attracted a counter-protester.

Progressive activist Andy Boyd, of Bozeman, stood on the same sidewalk wearing shorts and an American flag draped across his shoulders. He held a sign reading "USA FOR ALL."

"The message I get from him is a message of hate and of no religious tolerance," said Boyd, adding that he felt passionately that the United States was founded on the principle of religious tolerance.

Reporters knocked on the Islamic center's doors, but no one appeared to be inside. Voicemail and email messages to the center from a reporter were not returned. 

Chronicle reporters Troy Carter and Whitney Bermes contributed to this story.

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