GLASGOW – The Black Lives Matter prayer vigil that took place on Tuesday in front of the Barren County Courthouse was peaceful and attracted between 150 to 200 people.
About 20 people stayed long after the initial event had ended, not leaving until after 9 p.m.
The Glasgow Police Department had a presence at the prayer vigil for its entirety.
“They actually did contact us and we stayed throughout the night on that one,” said Major Terry Flatt, public information officer for the police department.
The police contacted Mayor Harold Armstrong and notified him that a group of people were standing across from the courthouse and were armed with guns and asked what they needed to do.
“Some of the young people who stayed were yelling and making comments like they were trying to intimidate the others,” Armstrong said.
The mayor went to the courthouse and said he tried to reason with them.
“I said, ‘Look, just go home. Come back another day. It’s been five hours,’” he said. “To make a long story short, they said they weren’t going until they go, so I went back across the street and asked those people why they were there with guns and they said because ‘It’s our right to be here.’”
The group told the mayor they were from Cave City.
“Basically, what I ended up doing is I said, ‘I don’t want to have to put a curfew or a non-assemblage, but that’s what I thought I was going to do …, but I didn’t,’” he said. “Finally, one of the policemen went over and talked to the people who were standing there with the guns and they said: ‘We’ll leave, but if we come back in 25 minutes and they are still here, we are going to sit here all night.’ A couple of the kids were really running their mouths. I don’t even know if they were there at the original prayer vigil. It was just like they were trying to to stir up something.”
The mayor continued that the people with guns were convinced to leave. He said his fear was that the two groups would end up in a fight.
“That’s the last thing we wanted, because the prayer vigil and the protest was a great display of unity with the city of Glasgow. It was a really good deal and I didn’t want something to get blown out of proportion,” Armstrong said.
At one point, the group who were in front of the courthouse filmed the mayor and said they were live streaming the video, but Armstrong doesn’t think it was streamed live because it had been edited.
“They were cutting out all of the stuff that was really the root of the situation,” he said. “Anyway, it was just a few young people that didn’t really understand or didn’t want to know what the real problem was, and it was a case to where it was finally deflated and everybody went on their way.”
Deputies with the Barren County Sheriff’s Office were also on hand Tuesday, but Sheriff Kent Keen said they were there for general security.
The sheriff said he saw the group with the guns at the prayer vigil and said he spoke with them very briefly.
“They were well within their right to display those firearms,” he said, adding it was their constitutional right to do so and that they presented no problems or issues during the event.
A second group of protesters turned out Wednesday.
The police department was notified of the event.
“People just showed up to do it and like I said it was peaceful and we do appreciate that,” Flatt said. “We didn’t get any calls about it or anything.”
Armstrong considered issuing a no assemblage order after 8 p.m. for Wednesday night, fearing the group that turned out Tuesday with guns would return.
“But finally, after I talked to the judge, they said we don’t need to do that. There’s not going to be a problem, so we left it like it was,” he said. “They assembled last night and I came by here two or three times and it ended up being maybe 30 people, but the people who had the automatic weapons didn’t show back up. There wasn’t a problem.”
The city of Glasgow doesn’t require permits for protests if groups are not going to be on city streets.
“When we’ve had preachers up here on the courthouse lawn, we’ve had them to permit. Tell us how many people they were expecting and that type of thing, but as to the thing the other day, we wrote a permit for the simple fact we were closing down the square,” Armstrong said, adding that two of the roads that pass through the public square are state highways. “But if you are going to come here and be on the courthouse steps like they were last night, that’s not mandatory that you get permitted.”
LaToya Drake, one of the speakers at Tuesday night’s prayer vigil, was unaware of the protesters lingering after the initial event ended Tuesday night, and she didn’t know about the group that turned out who had guns.
As for how she feels about people coming to the event with firearms, she said: “They too were expressing their right to gather; it may have come off intimidating to some children and others.”
Drake also said she was unaware of the group that turned out Wednesday night to protest.