Protesters rally in Ellijay over Black Lives Matter movement

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protesters

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Both protesters and police commented tonight with two words that many have not heard recently in news, a “peaceful protest” in Ellijay concluded despite rain and counter-protests in the area.

Authorities prepared after permits were approved yesterday, June 3, for a planned protest expecting 25 to 30 people in attendance. Even Eloisa Rafael, one of three students who were the organizers of the event along with Pedro Chavez and Nashely Hernandez, said that they were expecting around 25 people when they were planning and speaking with friends.

Instead, what the three students saw, were preliminary estimates closer to 200 people gathered in and around the roundabout in Downtown Ellijay with signs, speeches, and chants for support of the Black Lives Matter movements and for prominent names in both media and movements around the country.

All three of the organizers voiced their surprise and excitement at the larger turnout saying that they felt very encouraged by the level of community support in that way.

As protestors began the rally at 4:00 p.m., organizers called for peace and non-violence as they voiced opinions and chants, one man even stood to call for dialogue with police as he said that without dialogue, there can be no change. One of their first speakers, Pastor Robert Diaz, spoke a prayer over the gathering before offering words of encouragement for equality and rights saying, “We are going to make every effort, every day, to let our kids know, and our society know, that love shall prevail over hate, over discrimination, and whatever else.”

Diaz later said in an interview after the event that he was there to support the Black Lives Matter movement saying, “Obviously, all lives do matter, but in this instance, it is actually the black community that is actually more oppressed. We can see that all over, for decades… We are here as a nation, united, to raise our voice and to let the world know that this has to stop.”

Protesters continued under police supervision throughout their two-hour-long rally with speakers and representatives from the community including ministers and students who called for attention to social issues including the death of George Floyd and other media reports of police violence.

Protest organizer Nashely Hernandez said, “I helped organize this today because people need to stop being judge just because of the color of their skin.”

Others echoed the sentiment saying that the message of love and cooperation was central to what they wanted to convey. Local minister, Reverand Adam Bradley, of the Cherry Log Christian Church said, “Be Love” as he spoke to those gathered and offered his message of loving each other in the community.

After allowing certain community members to step forward to speak as well as prepared speakers, chants rang out through the downtown area as they continued their demonstration. Before long, a second group had formed on North Main Street counter-protesting the demonstration. Police stepped in to keep the groups separate, and while chants and rhetoric came from both sides, police and authorities maintained order in the separation of the groups throughout the rally’s length.

Police involvement stretched beyond one entity, however. The Ellijay Police Department lead permitting and planning for the event. However, authorities present at the event shared information that support and deputies came from all around the area as representatives of the Gilmer Sheriff’s Office and Fannin Sheriff’s Office along with other law enforcement officers from Whitfield and Cherokee Counties.

Protest organizer Pedro Chavez said, “We have had a good interaction with the police. We’ve had good communication. They understand what we’re here to do. They understand that we are here to protest peacefully… We appreciate their assistance, but we are here to protest against police brutality, against discrimination, against racism. But overall, we have had a good interaction with the police department.”

On the police side of the event, Ellijay Police Chief Edward Lacey said, “We couldn’t hope for a better event.”

He added that situations like today are always tense because of the unknown. But said, “The organizers were upfront with us and worked with us. That showed that they had a legitimate exercise of their first amendment rights.” As he addressed in an interview, one of the key points of the event was that the group pf protesters peacefully gathered and shared their message and peacefully left.

Those protesters pushed on despite counter-protests and even a bout of heavy rainfall, soaking many of those present as the stood in the center of the roundabout with only trees for cover. One protester repeatedly offered prayers throughout the event and continued his offerings through the same rainfall. He said he was protesting and stayed because “I think we all need to come together as a community, the police and the people, and put away the hate with love and prayer. Support Back the Blue and Black Lives Matter.”

Many others also offered support for both movements, including Karen Brown, who said, “There is no justice untill ALL God’s people are equal.”

Brown, a former teacher, referenced the “8 minutes 46 seconds,” a common reference to the death of George Floyd, as she too said that all lives do matter, but “right now the issue is black lives.”

As the rally concluded and protesters dispersed, many offered statements saying this is only the beginning and promises to each other that they would see them again soon. Eloisa Rafael also said she expects more, “I expect for this not to be the end of it. I expect for Ellijay to keep growing, keep changing, and understand that we are all equal.”

 

 

See more coverage on the event with FYN’s videos on our YouTube Channel, photos of the event on our Facebook Album, and coverage including interviews on our Livestream.

Ellijay prepares as protesters and police work towards rally tomorrow

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Break-In closings, rally

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Many rumors and concerns have begun spreading today as citizens have seen social media posts about a rally in Downtown Ellijay tomorrow.

As police and public safety prepare for the event, Captain Grace of the Ellijay Police Department spoke with FYN explaining that the protesters have applied for a permit for the event and that they are working alongside the participants to “provide a safe area” that they can exercise their constitutional right to rally.

Further, the Ellijay Police Department posted today on social media saying, “We are working with a group of local young men and women, many of them students and former students of Gilmer High, who desire to rally in the downtown area. Their stated purpose is to voice their concerns about perceived social injustices. As of this afternoon, they have applied for a permit to rally and it appears at this time that there is no reason to deny them permission to peacefully assemble.”

Police said in their post that they fully expect a peaceful rally. Capt. Grace also shared that he spoke with some of the students involved and that the police have plans to make an area available and to have an increase in police presence to protect citizens and to protect the protesters. Grace even said that should the event participants grow in number past what is expected, the police already have plans to relocate the event to a more open and conducive space so as to provide for those present.

As of now, the Ellijay Police Department and the Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office are both coordinating on the event, along with outside agencies, to “ensure that this is a peaceful rally.”

The Ellijay Police stated, “We have two objectives, to ensure that the right to peacefully voice grievances are heard and to ensure life safety and property preservation.”

A few shop owners downtown declined to comment about the rally but many others are voicing concerns on social media after the recent news from Atlanta and other major cities.

Police stated, “We want to provide assurances to all those we serve; the organizers of this event have asked us to help them ensure that no one hijacks their rally by using violence or any other form of disruption. It is our full intent to ensure that this happens.”

Capt. Grace also confirmed that the application request is for the roundabout itself. Currently, it is believe that those involved will be located in the central area by the fountain.

Additionally, the Ellijay Police Department made another post recently on similar issues about the current protests in larger cities. This earlier post was a longer one, in which Chief Edward Lacey, named at the bottom of the post, stated that he wanted to support the people and provide safety in these situations. The post stated, “We understand we serve groups which vary in background, ideology, race, religion, national origin and more. We are committed to holding ourselves to a high standard which ensures justice and equality for all. We also understand that there are many groups who, through a collective voice, stand up against oppression and injustice. We also stand for justice and equality and stand against any type of oppression.”

It continued on to explain how many demonstrations are started legitimately and for one purpose, but others would usurp that purpose through violence and fear for their own reasons and purposes. But they also spoke about the process of permitting and legally gathering to demonstrate upon City Property. It stated, “We represent and serve all citizens regardless of ideology. We ask that everyone know about this process  and please allow us to work with you to help you maintain legitimacy for your message.”

The rally is set to begin at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow, June 4, 2020.

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