We have seen our share of storm clouds locally in recent years but none as turbulent as what we saw last Sunday.
Ty Flynn, a local 19-year-old, worked to organize a Black Lives Matters protest and march in Elkins on Sunday. Eighty-eight people indicated on Facebook they would participate in this protest, including some local schoolteachers and Delegate Cody Thompson, D-43rd District.
The event was scheduled to begin in Elkins City Park on Sunday afternoon. The park has long been a peaceful place where children play on swings as families and church members gather for social activities.
Social media posts regarding the event also attracted the attention of counter-demonstrators, who felt the need to arrive in Elkins Sunday morning with assault weapons and shotguns. A number of these individuals stated they had no issue with the protest but had safety concerns and would help provide peace in our town.
The event was postponed Sunday because of the storm clouds in the weather forecast. On Monday, Flynn officially canceled the protest because of storm clouds of a different nature, saying the arrival of armed anti-protesters created a “clear and present danger for the community” and made him concerned about the safety of individuals taking part in the protest.
Elkins Police Chief Travis Bennett stated the Elkins Police Department respects and supports every person’s right to free speech as well as the right to assemble. We commend Chief Bennett and the Elkins PD for doing a good job patrolling Elkins. Thankfully no violent situations occurred Sunday.
To our knowledge the Elkins PD did not call for back-up from the State Police, the Sheriff’s Department or the National Guard, because the EPD has the manpower and the expertise to police a peaceful protest march. They did not ask for or need help from other law enforcement agencies — and certainly not from armed citizens.
Chief Bennett said it best: “It is imperative to allow police to do their jobs.”
People driving into Elkins armed with assault weapons and shotguns are not needed to help keep the peace. Should things ever get that bad, God help us all.
Armed citizens intent on “helping” the police keep order at protest events will only bring more storm clouds to our town and possibly get someone injured. That is unacceptable.