MARION, Va. (WJHL)- Marion police say they’re preparing to monitor two protest events scheduled to happen in town Friday. A large law enforcement presence, with multiple agencies involved, will patrol town tomorrow.
“As part of these preparations, we have assembled what may be the largest deployment of law enforcement resources in the regions recent history,” a Wednesday Facebook post from the Marion police department read.
The protests come a couple weeks after a cross-burning incident occurred in town at a protest organizer’s home.
Marion Police Chief John Clair said they’re trying to prepare for 500 to 1,000 people to be in town tomorrow. About a dozen law enforcement agencies will assist them, including the Virginia State Police.
“You’re going to see hundreds of police officers in and around the area,” said Clair.
Clair said he couldn’t give away too many operational details, but their goal is to allow everyone to exercise First Amendment rights.
“Hopefully Marion will be able to serve as a model for the safe and free exercise of rights, and hopefully our community understands the complexities of the issues that we’re dealing with,” he said.
Activist group the New Panthers is organizing part of tomorrow’s events. Group member David Sparks said they aim for an orderly protest against police brutality and systematic racism.
“The bigger picture is we want our voices to be heard,” said Sparks. “We don’t want to rub people the wrong way. We don’t want problems. We don’t want violence. We just want to protest and go home at the end of the day.”
Downtown Marion businesses are also preparing, but some stores and restaurants will close early tomorrow, or be closed completely. Other businesses, like Macado’s restaurant, will be open and ready to serve customers.
“It may be crazy, it may not be. I know we’ve got some bikers coming in to town,” said Macado’s assistant manager Justin Leg. “I’m hoping that we’ll have beer on tap. As far as I know, I’ve got kegs coming tomorrow.”
Marion police have informed some businesses that certain roads and areas will be blocked off.
“I think our chief has everything under control. I know that they’re a lot more prepared this time around,” said Leg.
Clair said there has been threats made on social media and they’re trying to be prepared. Multiple activist groups are expected to be in town Friday. Sparks said any threatening behavior shouldn’t be coming from members of his group.
“Marion PD and John Clair have done an absolute fantastic job in ensuring that we can do this, and ensure our safety while we are doing it,” said Sparks.
According to a previous release from the Town of Marion there are two scheduled events on July 3.
Downtown Area Rally July 3 @ 1 p.m.
- “Attendees to this assembly should endeavor to park in the assembly area on Broad Street and on Main Street, specifically from Church Street to Sheffey to allow for other customers to access downtown businesses.”
Farmer’s Market Rally and March July 3 @ 4 p.m.
- “Attendees to this assembly should endeavor to park in the assembly area at the Farmers Market parking lot or on West Cherry Street.”