By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
A Black Lives Matter rally, organized by Dee Garrett, took place in Olive Hill on Sunday. Protesters, most of whom bussed in from Louisville, marched from the Save A Lot grocery to J.A. “Skinny” Raybourn City Park where they engaged with Olive Hill residents and others from outside the area who showed up either to counter-protest or – according to some online sources – were already in the park for a rally in support of President Donald Trump. It is not known if the timing of the BLM rally, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., was specifically set to overlap with the Trump rally, which was scheduled to last from 1 – 4 p.m.
While both groups included heavily armed individuals intent on exercising both their First and Second Amendment rights, there were no incidents of violence. There was some verbal sparring between confrontational individuals in both groups, but police were able to maintain the peace and most individuals on both sides engaged in respectful dialogue.
The Olive Hill police department, with aid from Grayson police, the Carter County Sheriff’s department, and Kentucky State Police, were able to maintain a peaceful environment by positioning themselves between the two groups. No arrests were made, but law enforcement would reposition themselves between individuals when discussions became heated.
One BLM protester, who declined to identify herself or to speak on camera, told a Kentucky State Police officer that she saw a marked difference between the actions of police in Olive Hill and those of the Louisville Metro Police Department.
“If the Louisville police acted like this, we wouldn’t have a problem with them,” she was heard telling the officer.
It was a stark contrast to what some of the protesters seemed to expect based on videos Garrett posted in the lead-up to the rally where he said he had heard Olive Hill was, “the most racist city in Kentucky.”
That misleading claim, from a 2016 article posted on a travel website, was based on the fact that Olive Hill once had an active KKK Klavern and the small population of the city. While cities like Covington, Newport and Glasgow had two active Klaverns according to the article, they also had much larger populations. Newport and Glasgow – at the time of the report – had more than seven times the population of Olive Hill while Covington had more than 20 times the population. The number of active Klan members and other racists groups in each city were not taken into account.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups across the nation, does not currently show any active KKK Klaverns in Olive Hill, but they do show statewide organization from three different KKK groups and several other white identity racists groups, as well as four different black separatists groups based in Louisville. The SPLC lists a total of 15 hate groups in the state, with ten of those groups representing white nationalists, neo-confederate, or other white supremacists groups. The other five are black separatists groups.
Bishop Dennis Lyons, of the Louisville Gospel Missionary Church and the Voice of Louisville Civil Rights Association, said while some of the younger residents of Olive Hill might not be aware of the history of the Klan in the city, it was important to acknowledge and confront that legacy.
“They don’t understand, because they are of a different generation,” he said. “We’re just raising awareness.”
But Lyons, who led a prayer with black and white Christians in the park, said he was heartened by the events of the day.
“This is great because we are talking,” Lyons said. “Communication is the key.”
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