HIAWASSEE, Ga – Black Lives Matter activists and counter-protesters squared off on opposite sides of Main Street. Each side attempting to get their points across to members of the community.
From 4 to 6 p.m., the Black Lives Matter protesters gathered in the town square and waved signs on the sidewalk. As many as 50 people turned out in support of the movement and the end of police brutality, according to Hiawassee Police Department Chief Paul Smith.
The activist group didn’t have a permit issued, but the police department was aware of the protest. Smith added that everyone was mainly peaceful, but law enforcement would remain on the scene until all demonstrators and counter-protesters left.
He didn’t know the second group would be parked across the street. When the BLM event began, the counter-protesters first drove back and forth on Main Street. Once many of the original group left, the counter-protesters parked with their Trump and Confederate flags waving from truck beds.
FYN spoke with both sets of protesters about why the felt the need to assemble.
“I have a strong feeling like it is the right thing to do. People have been reading [our signs], and people have been smiling, ‘God Blesses,’ you know, and other people flip us off,” explained a BLM protester. Several cars drove by and some would knock horns or yell when passing. However, some of these were directed toward the individuals on the other side of the street.
She told the story of how an African American couple who saw them brought over waters and a card. Inside the card it read, “For a black mom who is scared every day that my four black sons won’t make it home. Thank you.”
The BLM protesters went on to talk about the racism in Towns County and that some black residents were scared to attend the protest.
“We need to make them feel welcome,” they said.
“The thing is it’s about all lives. I like Trump too, but that doesn’t mean that this is wrong,” explained another protestor. She went on it say in different circumstances she would be across the street waving a Trump flag. “I’m not protesting against Trump, but [police brutality], not a black and white thing.”
However, another individual part of the BLM group disagreed with her and said it’s always been a black and white thing. No one wants it to be that way, but unfortunately, many people continue to see color.
“We just want everyone to feel equal. We want everyone to feel valued and that they matter,” was the response to what they hoped came of this protest.
The counter-protesters professed a different outlook on BLM and those associated with it. They expressed that liberals made these deaths about race. According to them, the national marches were “silly” and “stupid.”
“If we don’t stand up, then people like that run over us and then they’re trying to brainwash our kids into the way they believe, we don’t believe that way,” said one individual as they pointed across the street to the BLM protesters. “I’m sick of the racism running over all of us white people and if we don’t stand together, then people like that will run all over us.”
“We live here. We pay taxes here. I was raised here. I’ve got nothing against colored people at all,” stated another counter-protester. “Nobody here harmed anybody. We didn’t harm that black guy.”
Another point of contention was the rioters, and the media not telling the entire story. People selectively picked stories to cover and deaths to feature, according to the group. No one told of the destruction and death occurring on both sides of the issue. Numerous people have been seriously injured or died because of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the police.
“Everybody’s life matters. Every one of us is God’s children,” affirmed a male protester.
They all agreed that they “didn’t have anything against” black Americans and counted some people of color as their friends. However, they disagreed with the BLM movement because it used to incite conflict.
HPD Chief Smith gave FYN his perspective on George Floyd’s murder and police brutality:
“I don’t know any officer that supports what happened in Minneapolis. I don’t know any officer that supports police brutality. It makes us all look bad. We don’t stand for it. Those officers being arrested for what they did is the correct thing to do. The people I spoke to out here were not here to protest the police. There were here to protest racism and police brutality and I support that right away.”
At the end of the day, both groups were passionate about their beliefs. Everyone exhibited their right to free speech and to peaceably assemble under the constitution.
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