A group of about thirty Black Lives Matter protesters from Gardnerville, Carson City and Lake Tahoe took to the streets of Douglas County today, where they were met with hundreds of heavily armed counter-protesters, some of whom were physically and verbally assaulted the mostly-teenaged protesters.
After Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley issued a public open letter to the Douglas County Library Board stating his opposition to their proposed support of Black Lives Matter, joining numerous library associations across the country, and threatening to not respond to the library’s call for assistance anymore, many across the country were outraged.
One of the groups outraged were the local Black Lives Matter organization, which is made up of 20-30 people who have been peacefully protesting every Saturday in Carson City in front of the legislature, many of whom are juveniles.
They, along with other BLM organizations in Tahoe (part of Douglas County) decided to peacefully protest the sheriff’s letter in Minden at the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office on Saturday.
The sheriff’s office issued multiple press releases about the protest during the past week, and created “Free Speech Zones” for the protesters to exercise their first amendment rights within the parking lot of the sheriff’s office.
However, when the small handful of BLM protesters, numbering only 20 to 30 at the peak of the protest, arrived on scene, they were immediately attacked and harassed by dozens of counter protesters who were heavily armed, dressed in military fatigues and carried assault rifles, bats, hand guns and shotguns, while DCSO deputies stood by and watched.
“We had places we were designated to protest,” said Braydon Abbott, 21, one of the BLM protesters. “When we went to those places, we had people immediately coming and surrounding us, yelling in our ears, blowing whistles, yelling on megaphones, and blasting the sirens on the megaphones right next to us, so they could drown us out.”
“They did it so that we couldn’t talk to them, and so we couldn’t even talk to each other,” continued Abbott. “We just wanted to peacefully engage. We did exactly that the entire time. DCSO deputies were there, but they were just watching. I can’t tell you how many times I was pushed, shoulder checked, I got spit on today.(The counter protesters) just came up and were violently saying to us ‘get out of our town, you don’t effing belong here, you aren’t welcome here.’ I had one guy come up to us and tell us ‘this is a white town, we don’t want your kind here’ we had a person come up and say to us ‘why do coon lives matter?’ These are the things we dealt with all day long, and yet we remained peaceful. These were the people saying they were going there to make sure WE remained peaceful, and we were met with nothing but violence and racial slurs all day long. As police watched, and did not interfere whatsoever.”
After the protesters were barraged by counter-protesters at the sheriff’s office with no crowd control, they decided to move to another location to try and get away from the armed counter-protesters, who made numerous death threats and physical threats to the protesters.
Numerous DCSO deputies were spotted in riot gear with their batons out, walking through applause of the counter-protesting crowd, and managed the cross walk in front of the Sheriff’s Office. Some deputies could be seen on the sheriff’s office roof, and at one point, a drone followed marchers through the street.
At one point during the afternoon, two teenaged protesters were separated from the group, directly across from the sheriff’s office, and were attempting to get into their car and leave the scene.
One man on top of a transformer box yelled to the crowd that the BLM protesters had a right to exercise their first amendment.
“This is America, they have the right to speak!” the man yelled, who was then booed before the counter protesters began chanting “USA! USA!” at him.
However, their vehicle was surrounded by counter protesters, who screamed “We’ll f****** kill you” “Get out of the car” and other threats.
It was Assemblyman Jim Wheeler of Douglas County, donning his signature cowboy hat, who got in the middle of the counter protesters and yelled to let the BLM people through.
“This is Douglas County, this is not how we treat our visitors!” Assemblyman Wheeler yelled. “Here we treat others with respect!”
Some other fatigue-clad members of the crowd joined Assemblyman Wheeler and pushed other counter-protesters aside to let the car with the two BLM protesters through, who held up peace signs and they slowly drove through the parted crowd.
While many counter protesters yelled at the (mostly teenaged) protesters to leave, many of them, such as Abbott, were born and raised in Gardnerville.
Wesley Alexander, 21, was born and raised in Gardnerville, and attended the protest with his mother, who is disabled after recently breaking her toe and was wearing a walking boot as she protested with BLM.
“I have lived in the Carson Valley my whole life, my other has lived here for over 30 years, my family has been here a long time, and I’ve never been more ashamed to be a Douglas County resident than I am today,” said Alexander. “My mother who was there today with a broken toe was walking a little bit slower because of her injury, and we were being chased by this angry mob of counter protesters. The (BLM) group was moving ahead and I heard behind me ‘Oh we’ve got a straggler, she’s with BLM’ and people were screaming at her, getting in her face, calling her horrible names. I went back there and told them off and put my arm around her and walked her up. About a block later I realized I had lost her again, so I turned around to try and find her, and tried to walk through the crowd, and the crowd of angry protesters chasing us wouldn’t let me pass. I told them ‘my injured mother is back there and I need to get to her’ and they started screaming ‘Oh he needs his mommy, f*** off, and they wouldn’t let me pass.”
Alexander further stated that protesting is legal on sidewalks and public areas, so long as they do not impede traffic or foot traffic. He said that the BLM protesters stayed on the sidewalk while counter protesters formed human chains to restrict the protesters movements, and then he was shoved and hit with rifle butts and they attempted to trip him.
“I’m from this valley, I was born and raised here,” said Alexander. “I 100 percent felt in fear for my life today.”
The night before the protest, Alexander stated he was walking home in Gardnerville with his girlfriend when he saw numerous self-identified militia members patrolling the streets, and said he had never felt unsafe in his community until that night.
Jerome Silas is one of the Carson City local BLM protest organizers, who led the group away from the Sheriff’s Office after he felt their safety in jeopardy.
“Today we gathered in Douglas County as the Black Lives Matter movement in Carson City and surrounding areas to address the letter that was written by the sheriff addressing the library and their support of Black Lives Matter, and also calling for defunding the police,” said Silas. “While we were out there, we probably had a maximum of thirty, but we were with hundreds and hundreds of counter protesters, and people in support of the sheriff. As we were expressing ourselves and protesting peacefully, we were immediately met with counter protesters yelling and screaming obscenities, men standing in the face of our young women in an intimidating fashion. People were very willing to show their true colors today.”
“As we’re standing on our side of the sidewalk, a couple of us organizers looked around and saw that we were not only surrounded by counter protesters, but counter protesters who were armed. They were wearing bullet proof vests, shot guns, hand guns, assault rifles. WE decided that it would be best to move from that immediate location to try and find another station that we could be comfortable, and everywhere we went we were followed and harassed, all the way until we decided to leave to prevent anyone getting hurt.”
A small group of protesters ended up in front of the court house, where members of the media attempted to speak with them. However, counter protesters immediately surrounded both the protesters and the media, shoving protesters and screaming over them as they tried to answer the media’s questions.
Approximately four DCSO deputies were seen at the court house steps, but did not intervene at any time, even as members of the media were swarmed and shoved by counter protesters.
“We were not inciting violence,” said Silas. “There was a young man who was assaulted after defending two young Black Lives Matter women who were approached by a large truck. He kept moving even after his truck touched these young women, so one of the men on our end did what men should do, which was protect the young women. When he did that, he was sucker punched by one of the counter protesters. It was at that point I decided we needed to discuss what we needed to do next to prevent someone getting shot and killed.”
The incident was filmed live on Carson Now’s Facebook page. The two teenaged BLM women were walking with the group of protesters across the street when a large black pick-up truck attempted to drive through the protesters, at a slow speed. The girls did not move, and the truck hit them, and continued to move forward as the girls held their place, holding their BLM signs aloft. At that point, the young unidentified man threw a plastic water bottle at the truck’s windshield.
Immediately after, the crowd exploded as a counter protester ran at the young man and punched him with a closed fist on the side of his face. He got in many additional blows until other counter protesters pulled him off.
At no point were DCSO deputies seen anywhere along the streets where protesters were marching, and no deputies stepped in during any of the numerous assaults witnessed by both protesters as well as this Carson Now reporter.
BLM members continued walking near Minden Park, as numerous counter protesters continued to surround them, screaming obscenities and threatening them with guns. One man on a horse rode through protesters, yelling foul language and telling them to go back where they came from.
It was at this point that Carson City SWAT deputies arrived on scene, along with three or four Carson City mounted patrols on horses. They attempted to control the crowd and separate the counter protesters from the protesters, who continued to march toward Highway 395.
During the march, 17-year-old Jace Jackson was assaulted numerous times by adult counter-protesters, who shoved, spat on, and hit the juvenile who brought up the rear of the protest march.
“For some reason, they came and surrounded us,” said Jackson. “A woman came up and pushed me, but I didn’t do anything back. Then another guy came up and punched me right in the stomach and broke my sign. I don’t know why he did it. They were prepping for the BLM violence, but they were being violent themselves.”
Jackson said that he feared for his life when two adults pinned him up against a vehicle while they marched, before two other counter protesters pulled the assailants off of Jackson.
“Which was really nice of them,” Jackson said.
Jackson is planning on filling a battery report with DCSO about his assault.
“We were not allowed to exercise our first amendment right and nor was it protected by the people who swore an oath to protect that right,” said Engageante Jackson, 23, who has been a leader at the Carson City BLM protests. “Dan Coverley said that he was in contact with us as organizers, but that was far from the truth, we haven’t heard from him. People were assaulted, people had guns pointed in their faces, and the sheriff’s office did not stand by us.”
All the protesters agreed on two things: they all feared for their lives during the protest in Gardnerville today, and they would not give up fighting for the rights of Black Lives Matter protesters in our region.
Douglas County has not responded as to why DCSO deputies were not with the protesters during their march.