Changes have been made to a planned police-brutality protest march on Saturday from Decherd into Winchester.
Falling in line with nationwide protests stemming from the death of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck, permits have been granted to have a peaceful march down Decherd and Dinah Shore boulevards Saturday.
Decherd Boulevard becomes Dinah Shore when it crosses from Decherd into the Winchester city limits.
The protest march will begin at 5 p.m. at the former Fred’s Super Dollar store parking lot at 1755 Decherd Blvd. in Decherd and end at the Franklin County Annex Building in the 800 block of Dinah Shore Boulevard in Winchester.
Winchester Police Chief Ritchie Lewis said Decherd resident Justin Stubblefield had initially applied for a permit to have the march from the Kroger parking lot in Decherd, beginning at 5 p.m., to the Winchester Square. He said a special permit is required to hold such events on public roadways.
However, Lewis said Brandi Evans later agreed to have the permit application in her name and wanted to have the protest march end at the Franklin County Annex Building in the 800 block of Dinah Shore Boulevard.
Lewis said the initial idea to have the march begin at the Kroger parking lot proved be problematic because marchers would have to cross in front of oncoming traffic to get in the approved marching lanes.
He said that having the march start at Fred’s means that the two southbound lanes closest to the establishment can be used for the marchers. He added that the center turn lane will be used for patrol motorcycles, and the northbound lanes will be adjusted to accommodate traffic while the march is in progress.
Lewis said protesters plan to hold a period of silence lasting 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time the officer had his knee on Floyd's neck.
Lewis said area churches have agreed to have buses available to transport marchers back to their vehicles after the event is over.
He said from all indications he's received, no violent groups have showed any signs of attending the protest march.
Stubblefield, who is a former candidate for Decherd mayor and serves on the city’s recreation committee, explained why he initially applied for the permits.
“I actually have three siblings who are all biracial,” he said. “I understand how prejudice is and how it can be. … I just did my part to make sure people are safe and can protest in a peaceful way, expressing their rights.
“This is a safe approach to do what they want to do. I understand where they are coming from.”
Stubblefield said he doesn’t perceive prejudice as being so severe in Franklin County, but the protest march will serve as support to bring more attention to an issue that has plagued the nation.
“I’m doing this to make sure the march starts out peaceful and ends peaceful,” he said.
Stubblefield said having the protest march locally was not his own idea. He added that he saw a post by Evans, who wanted to organize an event, and he wanted to make sure the permit rules were adhered to so that the event will go on smoothly.
Evans posted an update on her Facebook page urging for a peaceful march.
“It has been confirmed that we have full support from both Decherd and Winchester police departments,” she said. “They will march alongside us to protect and serve the people of our town and to ensure the safety of those marching and those who are not.
“If there’s any violent disturbance, looting or vandalism, you will be dealt with by law enforcement. If you don’t plan to march peacefully for our cause, the police will remove you.
“This is for the best interest of our people and our community. I’m also asking for everyone to please disperse peacefully once we make it to our Square.
“There’s no need to hang out. We have a mission, and once we make it to our destination, please have a plan for how you intend on getting back to your vehicle.”
The Winchester Police Department’s Facebook page includes the following statement:
“They want this to be a peaceful protest about George Floyd and ongoing issues with police brutality,” the posting says. “The Winchester Police Department supports the protest and will do everything in our power to make it successful.
“Neither the petitioners, nor the Winchester Police Department want any violence or destruction. We will have measures in place in case any out-of-town actors, or anyone for that matter, wishes to do these protesters or this community harm. We hope that this community will come together on this issue for a step in the right direction for a positive outcome.”
Violent protests have erupted throughout the nation, the closest large-scale event being in Nashville during the weekend.
Metro Nashville Police said in a tweet that at least 30 businesses and buildings were damaged after a peaceful demonstration turned violent last Saturday.
Fires were lit inside and outside the city’s historic courthouse and a statue of a former state lawmaker and newspaper publisher who espoused racist views was toppled.
Metro Nashville Police tweeted that 28 people were arrested during the protest and four others were arrested after a 10 p.m. curfew was implemented Saturday evening.
Demonstrators earlier in the evening pulled down a statue of Edward Carmack outside of the state Capitol building.
Carmack was a politician in the early 1900s who wrote editorials lambasting the writings of prominent Tennessee civil rights journalist Ida B. Wells.
He was fatally shot in 1908 by a political rival.
The protest occurred as demonstrators across the country protested Floyd’s death.
The main officer involved, Derek Chauvin, has been fired and faces a second-degree murder criminal charge. Three other officers involved in the incident were fired, arrested and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.