Quiet riot: Despite rumors, protest was peaceful, polite
The sounds of music from the North Street Press Club combined with the laughter of two young girls following their parents up Main Street made for a typical warm Friday night in Farmville last weekend in an astonishingly untypical time.
The 9 p.m. sounds, as darkness fell over the town, was a welcome relief to the earlier warnings on social media of, “STAY OUT OF FARMVILLE,” complete with five exclamation points against a fiery orange background. The message said there was a planned protest at 4:30 p.m. Another social media post being shared warned the protest could turn violent.
The part about the planned protest in support of Black Lives Matter and against the police violence in the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was absolutely true. A group led by Megan Garrett, of the Peaceful Farmville Protest for Justice Facebook group, held a protest on the courthouse lawn. It was much the same as Tuesday’s protest held by Garrett’s group.
The approximately 50 protestors spaced themselves out on the sun-drenched courthouse lawn holding signs. They chanted slogans, along with a person shaking a tambourine, and reacted as cars drove by beeping their horns in support of their cause. Just like Tuesday, the protest was peaceful and could even be called polite as police and sheriff’s officials stood by watching on either side of the lawn. The protest was over and dispersed by 7 p.m.
The peaceful protest stood in stark contrast to the preparations made by the town which spent Friday preparing for some sort of trouble by removing public trash cans and benches.
The police department attempted to address the issue by sending out a puzzling press release at 1:54 p.m. Friday saying it was making preparations for public safety. The release did not mention any specific threat, only mentioning that peaceful protests had been occurring for the past week. The release also did not give the public any information about steps they should take or why the town was taking precautions.
When contacted Friday afternoon, Farmville Police Chief Andy Ellington said the department had not received any information about potential unrest, calling the social media post just a rumor.
“We have had no information whatsoever that there is going to be any violence associated with the protest today,” Ellington said Friday afternoon. “Somebody had started this vicious rumor, and it’s gone viral. The only protest is the same group that’s done three others on the courthouse lawn at 4:30 p.m. A certain business owner got wind, because we were taking some precautions in case anything should ever happen with all that’s going on across the state, and decided to run up and down Main Street and tell everybody that something bad was really getting ready to happen.”
Fortunately, nothing bad happened and the band outside at the North Street Press Club played on.
(Farmville Herald reporter Titus Mohler contributed to this story.)