MARION, Va. (WJHL)- Town leaders in Marion, Virginia thanked protesters for events that resulted in no arrests or injuries.
Although the protests weren’t violent, they weren’t without confrontation revealing a deep divide in opinions on race and regional history. At one point, police created a human barrier to keep the peace between the two groups- one marching for ‘Black Lives Matter.’
“So many people came out to raise awareness,” said organizer Travon Brown. “See, when I march, I march to raise awareness knowing change takes time and I did a call to action. I told all my young people to vote so I’m on a mission right now.”
Hours before the Black Lives Matter protesters gathered at the farmers market in Marion, another group said they came to Main Street in downtown Marion to protect a Confederate monument and stand with police.
“We are not a community of hate,” said Marion resident Courtney Pierce. “We don’t need out officers defunded and we’re not going to stand for it. That’s just the way that it is. This town was together until this started.”
Throughout the march, both groups met with some tension.
“Over at the KFC, we just weren’t prepared for that kind of interaction right at that moment,” said Marion Police Chief John Clair. “I think part of the de-escalation was simply an increased presence creating more space and plus both groups I think wanted the other groups to move on.”
You could see the tension escalate as both groups stood on opposite sides of a barrier along Main Street as officers stood in between the two crowds.
“It was probably just enough,” Clair said.”We were prepared for a lot of contingencies but you can see we didn’t have any extra people around. We had absolutely everything we needed along with the Virginia State Police.”