Garland County Democrats cancel counter-protest amid worries of violence | Arkansas Blog

Friday, August 18, 2017

Garland County Democrats cancel counter-protest amid worries of violence

Posted By on Fri, Aug 18, 2017 at 4:20 PM

  • Garland County Democrats
The Democratic Party of Garland County has announced on Facebook the cancellation of an event opposing a group scheduled to rally in support of preserving Confederate monuments at the Arlington Lawn in Hot Springs on Saturday. The Garland County Democrats made the decision so as not to "contribute in any way, shape, or form to individuals wishing to create or provoke a violent situation in the community we all call home," said Hayden C. Shamel, chair of the Democratic Party of Garland County.

The now canceled event — “No Home for Hate” — would have been held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, about a quarter-mile away from the Arlington Lawn.

Shamel said a separate event at a church could put unnecessary strain on local resources that could be used in preventing harm.

"We want our police department focused on keeping the people that are downtown safe," she said. "We'll address this and still hold an event, but not tomorrow."

Shamel said she still expected there would be counter-protestors at Arlington Lawn.

A Hot Springs Police Department spokesman said his department was consulted about the Democratic Party event, but he made clear that the HSPD was prepared for the event and did not tell Hot Springs Democrats to cancel it due to potential violence.

Corporal Kirk Zaner, public relations officer for HSPD, said he told the Democrats, "If you do come, we’ll have law enforcement in place to protect you.

"It was her decision, we’re not going to tell them not to come," he said of Shamel. "We’re putting resources in place to allow everyone to practice their 1st Amendment right."

Zaner said the HSPD, National Park Service, Arkansas State Police and Garland County Sheriff were working together to ensure "assets are in place to protect property and life."

HSPD said counter-protests will be allowed.

"If it’s peaceful we will not get involved," Zaner said. "[But] any one, any group, that violates laws — destruction of property, violent acts against other people — we will arrest them on the spot and we will prosecute them."

The National Park Service will be taking the lead on the protest on Arlington Lawn, which is federal property, and where the group says it will protest from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The group's permit allows protest from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. You can read it here:
“This permit is for the fourth rally that this group has had in as many months," said Josie Fernandez, Superintendent of Hot Springs National Park. “Only once did we have counter-protestors, it was at the first rally in May."

Fernandez said at none of the other rallies has violence occurred and the group has never stayed for the entirety of the permit.

But, that there is "more media visibility and public interest and so tomorrow...we are prepared based on what we know."

Fernandez said in addition to partnering with other law enforcement agencies, a "cadre of law enforcement rangers from other parks" will be aiding.

Shamel said in the Democratic Party of Garland County statement."The individuals who plan to rally downtown on Arlington Lawn do NOT represent the vast majority of our residents who are absolutely opposed to hate in any of its ugly forms. Inclusivity, tolerance, hope, and unity are not partisan values; they are American values, and our friends on both sides of the political aisle are in agreement on this."

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