Protest planned downtown Saturday; police chief says intimidation not permitted

Published 1:09 pm Friday, May 29, 2020

SALISBURY — Local advocacy group Women for Community Justice has planned a “mobile protest” in downtown on Saturday to highlight murders of three black Americans that have attracted national attention.

The protest is scheduled to occur around 4:30 p.m. A news release about the event said it will be conducted to show solidarity with the families and others who are seeking justice for Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who murdered in February in Brunswick, Georgia, after being followed while he was on a run; Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot and killed in March by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers during the service of a no-knock warrant; and George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes during a call about counterfeit money.

The Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was arrested and charged with Floyd’s murder Friday, the Associated Press reported.

“WCJ is mobilizing to protest the continuing violence, impunity and murder of people of color,” a news release said. “WCJ feels that these national cases need to be kept in the forefront of people’s collective memories in order to confront the systemic issues of racial injustice and express outrage that the killings are unending.”

A news release said the protest will be conducted via cars.

In an email to other officials on Friday, Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins asked that city government put out a message of peace that shows a commitment to protecting peaceful protestors. Heggins said there have been threats that “‘patriot’ groups, ‘have been called in to ‘protect’ Salisbury because ‘this ain’t Minnesota.'”

“In my humble opinion, it would benefit our community if the city put out a message of peace, a clear commitment to protecting peaceful protestors and the affirmation that black and brown lives are valued here,” Heggins wrote.

On Friday afternoon, Police Chief Jerry Stokes did just that, saying everyone has the right to peacefully protest.

“As protesters prepare to participate in a planned, mobile protest tomorrow, May 30, we would like to inform everyone to be mindful that violence, intimidation and intolerance in any form, shape or fashion will not be permitted,” Stokes said. “Any deviation from this standard will be addressed accordingly.”