Third protest larger but peaceful
The third Black Lives Matter protest held in Prineville in less than a month was likely the largest, but it was a peaceful event that resulted in no arrests or property damage.
The demonstration, which took place on Saturday afternoon, was expected to bring anywhere between 300-1,500 people. It followed a contentious second demonstration that resulted in four arrests and came after a week in which a police department video posted to its Facebook page drew fire. In the video, Prineville Police Chief Dale Cummins disputed claims made by local protest organizer Josie Stanfield in a video she posted. On Wednesday, the Oregon Justice Resource Center, representing Stanfield, demanded a retraction of the video.
Some businesses reportedly decided to close shop during the protest and others boarded up windows. Workers were spotted Friday putting up a temporary fence around the local post office, sparking rumors that property damage might be in store.
However, considerable planning took place leading up to the event. Central Oregon Diversity announced the demonstration in a Thursday news release, stressing it would be a peaceful event.
"This event will focus on peace, education, friendship and justice with community discussion considering recent nationwide events involving racial injustice and brutality through law enforcement and the education system," the statement read. "Event hosts Adriana Aquarius and Josie Stanfield want all who support the BLM movement to attend unless their beliefs are vetted in violence, adding, 'If you are coming with the intentions of being violent, this is not for you.' With local racial tension escalating, including one event coordinator having received death threats, event volunteers have contacted local law enforcement and are expecting support in keeping this demonstration peaceful from both sides of the street."
Cummins provided an update on police plans for the protest on Friday, stating that the community would have "a strong law enforcement presence at the event."
"We will also be video recording in and around the event to support criminal prosecution if criminal acts occur," he added. "Traffic laws will be strictly enforced in and around the event."
Cummins warned that anyone stepping on to the state highway would be subject to arrest for disorderly conduct and said that officers would be looking for other violations that could distract from the event, such as open containers of alcohol.
In addition, Cummins looked into the post office fence situation to squelch any rumors that the protest would result in any violence or property damage.
"I was informed that the Prineville postmaster contacted the USPS district office in Portland to notify them of the demonstration occurring on Saturday," he stated in a Friday Facebook post. "U.S. Post Office protocol is to close their buildings when demonstrations are in close proximity to their offices."
The protest once again drew a sizable crowd of Black Lives Matter advocates in front of Crook County Courthouse, chanting messages and hoisting signs. And once again, a group of counter-protesters gathered across the street in front of the Prineville City Hall plaza.
But unlike the previous two events, people were kept from crossing the street to incite conflict by a much larger police presence and concrete barriers placed in front of the sidewalks. When the protest concluded, nobody had gotten arrested and only three minor traffic citations were issued.
"The city of Prineville had approximately 250 people at today's peaceful demonstration," Cummins wrote in a Facebook post Saturday evening. "We would like to thank all involved for supporting our mission of keeping everyone safe while allowing everyone the freedom to express their rights and opinions."
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