The Durango Police Department plans to have more officers present at Friday night’s weekly Black Lives Matter rally in Buckley Park in response to concerns that a counterprotest could turn violent.
Cmdr. Ray Shupe said the police department has received multiple reports from people who are concerned the event may turn violent based on several posts on social media this week.
“There’s a group out there that wants to do a countermarch,” Shupe said. “And there’s been a lot of social media buzz about it.”
The event in Buckley Park has been happening every Friday for months with no issues, said DPD Deputy Chief Brice Current, who said he personally attends on a weekly basis.
“It’s completely peaceful,” he said. “It’s about 70 to 100 people on blankets, mostly women and children, listening to someone speak.”
But in recent days, for reasons that remain unclear, people who want to organize a counterprotest mistakenly believe the event is a riot, Current said.
Many of the counterprotest posts have been on the LaPlata Liberty Coalition Facebook page.
“In gonna stands (sic) on the corner across from them and I will be armed,” wrote Erik Greer, a Durango resident. “I will protect my city and it’s people. I understand this is ‘peaceful’ but I stand ready.”
In another post, Herb Craig suggests the Black Lives Matter protesters are coming from out of town.
“Perhaps they should meet them at the county line and/or airport and turn them around,” wrote Craig, who also lives in Durango. “If they don’t want to leave shoot them.”
Terry Jirsa said Black Lives Matter protesters don’t understand “rural people.”
“We get up in the morning, long befor (sic) first light, climb a 20 (foot) tree, and sit for 10-12 hours, waiting to shoot something……… Just saying,” Jirsa wrote. “We don’t look to start trouble but if it happens, we tend to finish things.”
Some in the LaPlata Liberty Coalition group have tried to temper the conversation.
“This is strictly a support law enforcement rally,” said Peter Cardwell. “We stay on our side of the street and behave ... We are not looking for or inviting any trouble.”
Attempts to reach members of the LaPlata Liberty Coalition late Thursday were not successful.
The LaPlata Liberty Coalition formed in 2018 in opposition to La Plata County’s updated land-use code. The Facebook group has since become a forum for typically right-leaning, conservative political conversation.
Shupe said officers investigated the potential threats on social media, but no action was taken.
“We haven’t come across anything where we have a violation of the law,” he said.
DPD usually has an officer or two at the Friday events, but police presence has been “low key,” Shupe said. This Friday, however, more officers may be on hand in case of an escalation.
“We don’t talk about tactical plans, but we’ll be prepared to handle anything that happens Friday,” Shupe said.
SWMovement4BlackLives, which helps put on the event, provided a statement to The Durango Herald that said, “Our weekly event has been peaceful, and Friday we will be in our same spot and reiterating our peaceful protesting and nonviolence.”
Shupe said anyone is welcome to visit Buckley Park and express their opinions – peacefully.
“Everyone has a constitutional right and freedom to go protest, it just has to be peaceful,” he said. “When you start instigating or inciting someone else, that won’t be tolerated.”