Dozens gather at Lafayette Square for protest about inequality

Published 6:42 pm Monday, June 1, 2020

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Around 50 people gathered at LaFayette Square Sunday to protest the death of George Floyd, a Minneapolis, Minnesota man, killed by a police officer last week.

People of different ages, genders and races took part in the rally, which lasted more than an hour. Many protesters held signs with messages like “stop the violence” or “black lives matter.” A small rally was held, and then some protestors held up signs while others walked around the square, and nearby streets downtown, making their voice heard. 

“I had a few people reach out, saying when are we going to protest?” said organizer Beth Jackson, who has lived in Troup County her entire life. “I just wanted to go ahead and initiate something together peacefully.”

Jackson said she stressed making sure the protest was peaceful and unlike the violent scenes that had erupted in larger cities around the country over the weekend.

“We wanted to do it the right way,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to bring negative vibes in here. Positive vibes bring positive change. We did inform law enforcement that we would be here because we wanted to do this peacefully.”

Several LaGrange Police Department officers were at the square, including Police Chief Lou Dekmar.

“Any time there’s an issue that potentially involves the police, I like to be here personally in case there’s a question or concern that would benefit me and our agency. In addition, we have officers to ensure people that are gathered are allowed to do so without being interfered with,” Dekmar said. “Our focus and our goal is always safety for those who are speaking but also the public in general.”

Numerous times during the protest, Jackson asked everyone to remain peaceful.

“Violence doesn’t stop violence … We are here for peace, and we are here to show people that this can happen peacefully,” she said.

Dekmar said the police department prepared but said the LPD has a great relationship with the LaGrange community.

“We had some concerns with social media because you never know who is going to show up. We had a contingency of officers that would’ve been available if there was an issue, but we certainly saw no reason to deploy them,” he said. “We have a great relationship with our community. Our community understands that in order for the first amendment to be effective, people have the right to speak, have the right to be heard, and we certainly don’t want to do anything that interferes with that, and we certainly want to make sure everyone is safe.”

Jackson said she hopes that people took away from the protest that everyone is in this together.

“We are all united as one,” Jackson said. “No matter your race, your color, your creed, we are all one.”