The town of Rogersville recently issued a formal ‘thank you’ to the law enforcement—both local and visiting—who were present during the July 11 downtown protest.

Readers may remember that members of the Johnson City-based group known as the New Panthers Initiative held a protest on July 11 in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement. The NPI was met with a large group of counter-protestors, which consisted of both locals and people who had traveled from surrounding counties.

A metal barricade was set up that divided Main Street in half at the Depot Street intersection. The barrier was lined with law enforcement officers on both sides. Protesters were on the west side, counter-protesters on the east side.

Though Saturday’s protest in downtown Rogersville was largely peaceful, a total of nine people were arrested at the event and charged with disorderly conduct.

Hawkins Co. Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Tony Allen confirmed for the Review that all arrests were from the counter-protest side. No one from The New Panthers Initiative was arrested.

Soon after the event, Rogersville Mayor Jim Sells requested that City Attorney Bill Phillips draft a formal proclamation to thank the law enforcement officers involved. This was read aloud at the July 14 town BMA meeting.

“Tell them how much we appreciate them”

“You all did a great job,” Alderman Mark DeWitte said.

Sells agreed, adding, “If you see one (officer), I would recommend you thank them and tell them how much we appreciate them from the citizens of Rogersville and this board.”

“On behalf of all of the businesses in the downtown area, I’d like to also thank all of the police forces for the great job they did in making sure that the businesses were safe and didn’t have to worry about anything happening to them,” Chamber of Commerce Director Nancy Barker added. “Even though they (businesses) lost the day (most of them closed due to the protest), it was great to come in the next morning and everything be fine. If you went through town at 9 p.m. that night, you would have never known anything happened in our community.”

She went on to add that she had received calls all week from citizens asking the Chamber to thank the law enforcement departments who protected the town on July 11.

Many days of planning

“We know that the planning (for the protest) didn’t take place in a one-day, a two-day or even a one-week period,” Alderman Brian Hartness told RPD Chief Doug Nelson at the meeting. “That coordinated effort that you folks put together and the good decision-making that you did was unprecedented for an event that we’ve ever had here in Hawkins County.”

DeWitte also thanked Mark Morely and his staff of the town’s Street Department for their efforts.

The proclamation reads as follows:

“Whereas the Town of Rogersville was selected by an organization supporting the Black Lives Matter movement as the location for a public demonstration in support of their beliefs and goals, with said demonstration to be held on July 11, 2020;

And whereas the planned public demonstration received much publication and notoriety, resulting not only in the assemblage of the demonstrators, but an assemblage of those opposed to the beliefs of the demonstrators, and those opposed to the results of demonstrations previously held in other localities, said results being the destruction of private and public property and personal injury;

And whereas the anticipated gathering of large crowds with opposing views and the potential for violent activities which would be detrimental to the public safety to the citizens of the town of Rogersville, it was deemed essential by the government of the town of Rogersville to provide the maximum amount of police protection to ensure the safety, health and welfare of the citizens of the Town of Rogersville;

And whereas many police and law enforcement agencies throughout the East Tennessee region volunteered the services of their officers to assist the Rogersville Police Department and Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office in maintaining order and public safety during the aforesaid demonstration;

And whereas the law enforcement agencies which volunteered to assist the RPD and the HCSO provided officers at their own expense;

And whereas due to the efforts of the volunteering law enforcement agencies, and the efforts of the RPD and HCSO, which efforts demonstrated the highest standards of protocol and procedure, no injury to property or person occurred during the demonstration of July 11, 2020;

Now therefore be it proclaimed that the Town of Rogersville is eternally grateful for the professional and exemplary assistance of the following law enforcement agencies: Grainger County Sheriff, Greeneville Police, Greene County Sheriff, Hancock County Sheriff; HCSO; Jefferson City Police; Kingsport Police; Morristown Police; RPD; and Sullivan County Sheriff.”