By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Dee Garrett was back in Grayson – and wearing body armor – on Sunday, but despite the controversial organizers return to town the peaceful atmosphere fostered the previous weekend continued. Garrett spoke briefly at the beginning of the event, which stayed focused on the park next to city hall. But he then turned the microphone over to others while he continued the work that others started the previous weekend, walking across Carol Malone Boulevard to engage in one-on-one conversation with counter-protesters and those who worried about riots and violence descending on their town.
Garrett apologized for his previous videos, noting that he was an aggressive person by nature and that it was one of the things he needed to overcome.
“Me being aggressive is not going to deescalate,” Garrett told reporters, adding later that he, “did operate in bad faith” and admitting that he, “shouldn’t do that.”
Despite admitting that he was sometime an aggressive person, something he attributed to his upbringing and time spent in jail where those perceived as weak are preyed upon, he said that he did not support the aggressive tactics of many in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization, making a distinction between BLM as a philosophy and movement and BLM as an organized group.
“I don’t agree with pulling people out of cars,” Garrett said, nor did he support rioting, looting, and arson.
He also said his arrest in Louisville was the result of a misunderstanding and that his role in Louisville was different than the role he wants to take on in Grayson. In Louisville, he explained, he was working to protect other protesters who wanted justice for slain EMT Breonna Taylor. In Grayson, he said, he wanted to move the message back to one of unity, as he had when he initially began organizing rallies on the corner of Carol Malone and Main Street.
He said while he did break some traffic laws in Louisville, he was not rioting. Rather, he said, when seen exiting his truck it was to stand between protesters and other aggressors. He said the police also believed his truck to be stolen when he was taken into custody. He said that was not related to his reporting his truck stolen during a previous Grayson event, but was because of officers there scanning the code on the inside of his driver door, which had been replaced, rather than scanning the VIN from under the front glass.
He said while his negative experiences with Louisville and other urban police forces were “the reason why I march,” his experiences with Grayson police had been positive.
“Grayson officers have been very cool and respectful to me,” Garrett said.
He also thanked his friends for “checking him” on his aggression and attitude, and helping put him back on the right path. He noted that among those friends who helped “check him” were Charles McCall and Daniel Murphy, who were integral to the organization of the cook-out and dialogue on August 9 that began to change the tone of recent rallies.
“I need that,” he said of the influence McCall and Murphy had made by telling him when he was wrong.
He also thanked an unnamed white friend who helped him confront his own prejudices.
“I never knew I was racist to white cops, until a friend checked me,” he said of the “Caucasian” friend who brought it to his attention.
“Being out here is bringing that to light,” he said, for himself and for others.
The dialogue that began the previous weekend did make for some interesting interactions on Sunday. While some counter-protesters gathered in the lot opposite the park, members of the regional III Percent movement gathered in the park with the BLM demonstrators to provide security and protect their rights to free-speech.
III Percenter Millard Philmore, who said he spent 27 years in the U.S. Navy before retiring with the rank of Chief Petty Officer, said he was there to “protect everybody’s First Amendment rights.” He said it was what he swore an oath to do when he joined the Navy in 1976 and it was what he had been committed to ever since.
“This isn’t about 2A (the Second Amendment) or BLM,” Philmore said of his and his colleagues presence in the park. “It’s about their rights to speak.”
McCall, who spent some time talking again with Larry Martin – who changed his mind about the BLM demonstrators after engaging with McCall and others the previous weekend – before Martin had to leave for work, said there were plenty of good people in Grayson.
“There’s some good people, and some bad apples,” McCall said. “Like everywhere.”
McCall, who also organizes with a group known as People Motivating Other People, said the positive experiences they had since engaging with the counter-protesters the previous weekend had inspired him and his wife to continue building community relationships in Grayson and other surrounding communities.
“Back in the day, everyone knew each other in the community,” he said, explaining that while communities had grown beyond the bounds of any one city with the internet, that virtual interaction had also led to a lot of misunderstandings. He said he was even more convinced that taking the time to talk face-to-face with folks could help build those bridges and make our connected communities even stronger.
“We think the same things about a lot of stuff,” McCall said. But, he said, if people didn’t sit down together, share a meal, and take time to find that common ground it made it easier for misunderstanding to flourish.
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