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Black Lives Matter Protest In Douglas County Ends Early Due To Hostility From Counter-Protesters

Four people walking in the front. There is a man on a horse to their left and a man with an American flag with a blue stripe, to their right, staring at them.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Black Lives Matter supporters gathered to protest the Douglas County Sheriff after making a controversial statement in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement. They were met with hostility by counter-protesters, in Minden, Nev., on Saturday, Aug. 8.

Over the weekend, roughly 50 Black Lives Matter protesters in Douglas County were met with hostility from several hundred counter-protesters who showed up in support of law enforcement.

As a warning, this story contains obscene and offensive language.

Up to a thousand people in support of law enforcement gathered in front of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday, sporting President Donald Trump attire and waving anti-Black Lives Matter signs.

A man with a yellow and silver sheriff badge stands behind a podium. There is an American flag placed to the left of the podium.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
KUNR Public Radio
Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley, at his press conference, addressing the statement he made against the Black Lives Matter movement before a protest against him was slated to start, in Minden, Nev., on Saturday, Aug. 8.

Many arrived early in the morning and erupted in cheers when Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley arrived.

Coverley held a press conference to address the controversial letter he wrote a few weeks ago, which sparked outrage among local Black Lives Matter activists who organized the protest in response.

About two weeks ago, the Douglas County Public Library Board of Trustees was in the process of drafting a statement in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that racism doesn’t belong there.

Because of the library’s support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has called for defunding the police, Coverley’s letter told library officials, “Please do not feel the need to call 911.”

"I simply meant that if you don't feel you can trust law enforcement, and the sheriff's office specifically, then don't feel that you have to ask us for help. It's completely up to you," Coverley said at his press conference on Saturday.

But not everyone agreed with Coverley’s letter, including Black Lives Matter organizer Jerome Silas of Carson City.

A man is speaking and looking straight forward. There are microphones in front of his face and the people behind him are holding their fists in the air.
Credit Lucia Starbuck / KUNR Public Radio
KUNR Public Radio
Jerome Silas talks to Black Lives Matter supporters, counter-protesters and members of the media at the protest against the Douglas County Sheriff, who made a controversial statement in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement, in Minden, Nev., on Saturday, Aug. 8.

“The way we feel about the statement is that, if supporting the Black Lives Matter movement will have them to not protect you, we want to know how they've been protecting their Black citizens," Silas said.

Silas was repeatedly interrupted by the mass of counter-protesters.

Black Lives Matter protests have swept across the country, and with them, a demand to defund the police. Here’s what that idea means to Silas.

"Defunding the police does not actually mean taking the funds away from the police in order to starve them of resources," Silas said. "Defunding the police means we want you to reallocate those funds, give us an equitable educational system, in which our children can be properly educated."

For Sheriff Coverley, he said he would support money being reallocated to mental health services, if it meant his deputies didn’t have to respond to those calls.

"Asking a police officer to be a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a mental health expert is difficult. We provide training and get the guys the best equipped that they can [be], but so taking all of that away from law enforcement would be an excellent way to move money over," Coverley said.

Unfortunately, this type of dialogue about police reform isn’t what took place. Instead, many of the armed counter-protesters accosted the Black Lives Matter supporters, by pushing them, yelling obscenities and demanding they go home.

At one point, a car slowly drove into a group of Black Lives Matter protesters. No injuries were reported.

Carson City native Nejae Jackson, who has been attending Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Carson City regularly, said despite getting pushed off the sidewalk where they were protesting, the movement remained strong.

“We are powerful. We are power to the people. They will not drown us out. You can't kick us out of anywhere," Jackson said. "This is a free speech world; we're intending to make sure that everybody knows that. You're not running us out of the town. We're just restrategizing.”

A crowd of people mostly wearing blue. One person holds a sign that says, "We [drawn on red heart] Sheriff]."
Credit Ty O'Neil / This Is Reno
This Is Reno
Cory Baird, the man in the striped shirt, organized the counter-protest in response to the demonstration against the Douglas County Sheriff, after the Sheriff made a controversial statement in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement, in Minden, Nev., on Saturday, Aug. 8.

But, after a few hours of restrategizing and being constantly on the move, the Black Lives Matter supporters dispersed, telling various media outlets they felt unsafe in Douglas County.

The counter-protest organizer, in support of the sheriff, Cory Baird, says it’s unfortunate that the small group felt unsafe.

“Honestly, if you keep coming back, it's going to be the response, and we got to work together," Baird said. "So, what I am trying to do, so hard, is try to do a community project with their group, and that way Douglas can see that they're not all violent. The isolated incidences in Portland, and Seattle, and all that, are isolated incidents."

There was no destruction of property at the protest, and law enforcement did not make any arrests or issue any citations.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

A crowd of people holding American flags and pro-law enforcement signage.
Credit Ty O'Neil / This Is Reno
This Is Reno
Black Lives Matter supporters, who were protesting the Douglas County Sheriff, after he made a controversial statement in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement, were surrounded and met with hostility from counter-protesters who showed up in support of law enforcement, in Minden, Nev., on Saturday, Aug. 8.

Editor's note: The image captions in this story have been corrected from Aug. 9 to Aug. 8.

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Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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