Thursday, June 18, 2020

'Militias' push back against some rural anti-racism protests with intimidation, threats and maybe help of police

"The demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality that have convulsed major metropolitan areas, from Minneapolis to Miami, have also made their way into small-town America, redrawing the geography of the Black Lives Matter movement," Isaac Stanley-Becker reports for The Washington Post. "But the activists spearheading unlikely assemblies in rural and conservative corners of the country have faced fierce online backlash and armed intimidation, which in some places is unfolding with the apparent support of local law enforcement."

The notion of rural protests might shake up the popular image of rural America as a conservative, white monolith, but about 21 percent of the rural U.S. is non-white, and many small-town residents are liberal, especially the younger ones, April Simpson reports for Stateline.

"Over 3,000 towns have held some form of protest, an explosion of political expression with far-reaching consequences," John W. Miller reports for The Daily Yonder. "Remarkably, they’re breaking out in counties Donald Trump carried by over 40 points and attracting explicit support from liberals and Trump supporters."

Some people Miller interviewed said they believed the protests are gaining popularity because of the brutality of Minneapolis resident George Floyd's death at the hands of the police, and because of the bipartisan spirit of the protests.

Many rural protests have not seen overt intimidation or had any trouble with local law enforcement. Chris Dyson, 21, organized recent peaceful protests in downtown Punxsutawney, Pa., pop. 5,800—the first such protests in the town famous for its Groundhog Day tradition, Miller reports. There was some backlash online, someone used the n-word, and one threw a beer can, but that's about it.

Punxsutawney Police Chief Matt Conrad, 33, said he's agreed to meet with Dyson to talk about ways to improve racial tolerance in town, and said he stopped by every day to talk to the protesters. "I left an olive branch for us to create something together," Conrad told Miller. "There’s enough division in this country."

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