Planned, non-permitted weekend protest brings police to downtown

Published 8:00 pm Monday, July 11, 2016

By Shavonne Walker

SALISBURY — Contrary to reports that downtown Salisbury was on “lockdown” and Salisbury Police expected trouble after it was determined a non-permitted protest was planned as a response to the shooting of two black men and a subsequent ambush shooting of Dallas police officers, city officials say there was no lockdown.

There was minimal police presence in the area “to ensure the safety of all citizens and their First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble if they chose to do so,” said Police Capt. Shelia Lingle.

City officials said on Friday afternoon, the Salisbury Police Department became aware of a planned protest scheduled to occur on Saturday at noon in the downtown area.

The protest was reported to have been a response to the shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

On Tuesday, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police in Louisiana after a homeless man called 911 to say a man was “brandishing a gun” in front of a convenience store. Sterling was involved in a scuffle with police when he was shot. A day later, Philando Castile was shot by an officer during a traffic stop. His fiancee live-streamed the aftermath via Facebook, saying Castile was reaching for his license and told the officer he had a gun and permit to carry.

Five Dallas police officers were shot and killed Thursday during a peaceful protest where seven others were injured. The shooter, Micah Johnson, was killed by police when explosives were wired to a robot and sent into the parking garage where he held police in a standoff.

“As there was no permit obtained, SPD developed an organized plan and scheduled manpower to handle the situation if it occurred,” city Communications Director Linda McElroy said.

“The Salisbury Police Department has not yet received a permit for an upcoming downtown event; however if we do receive an application, we will certainly work with the organizers to host a safe, peaceful event,” Lingle said.

It was also reported police went door-to-door at downtown shops to warn merchants of possible violence. City officials said at 2 p.m. police received word that some “downtown merchants had been told there was going to be a protest and that there could be trouble. At that time officers went downtown to reassure the merchants,” McElroy said.

The police had an organized plan to handle the protest if it occurred, which it did not.

“There were minimal police around the downtown area during the noon hour,” McElroy said.

Part of that police presence was a “staff member” on the roof of one of the downtown businesses, Lingle said.

“From our understanding, two stores closed early on Saturday — one which typically closes in the early afternoons on Saturdays and another whose reasons are unclear to Salisbury Police,” Lingle said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.