FORT PLAIN — A Blue Lives Matter protest took place in Haslett Park on Sunday afternoon, with Black Lives Matter supporters holding a counter-protest directly across the street.
The dozen-or-so Blue Lives Matter protesters lined Haslett Park, shouting slogans such as “Defend the Police — Don’t Defund Them,” while holding signs emblazoned with statements such as, “All Lives Matter,” asking for passing vehicles to “honk if you support law enforcement.”
Though nearly all present Blue Lives Matter protesters were provided an opportunity to supply comments regarding their movement Sunday, they chose not to.
On the corner opposite the Blue Lives Matter protesters, a nearly equal number of Black Lives Matter protesters held up signs stating, “LGBTQ beautiful — Hate is Ugly,” and “No Justice, No Peace.”
Black Lives Matter supporter Jessica Daniels’ sign — addressing police officers — summed up what several agreed was the group’s overall message: “At the end of the day, your uniform comes off. Skin doesn’t. If all lives really matter, you would be standing with us.”
Commented Black Lives Matter counter-protest organizer Mason Rogers — who also had a hand in organizing the peaceful Black Lives Matter events taking place in Fort Plain and Canajoharie recently — “Blue Lives Matter does not exist. It’s not a real movement. You’re not born a cop. You don’t choose to be born Black. By being a cop, you don’t get segregated. You don’t get murdered.”
There were some heated exchanges Sunday.
Black Lives Matter protest attendee Gigi Demir several times engaged with Blue Lives Matter protest attendees, yelling across the street to them, “You’re racists,” to which one replied, “Yeah, and proud of it,” following that statement with a chant of “Black lives don’t matter.”
Someone also repeatedly referred to the Black Lives Matter supporters as “clowns,” shouting, “Clown lives don’t matter.” Directly called a clown, Demir asked, “So, Black people are clowns?” to which a man responded, “Yeah, they are.”
“Not only do these people not get the point, but they’re hateful,” Daniels said, referring to the Blue Lives Matter protesters. “They’re berating a bunch of kids who are trying to make the world a better place.
“There’s no such thing as blue lives. You can take the uniform off, but you can’t change the color of your skin. All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter, and blue lives don’t exist.”
In the vicinity of the park, with the goal of protecting both groups and making sure the gatherings remained peaceful, were several members of the Fort Plain Police Department, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and the New York State Police.
Stated Fort Plain Police Chief Ryan Austin, on scene Sunday, of his department’s officers, “We’re here just to ensure that either group is peaceful,” adding, “We do not and will not support damage of private property, or any property, obstructing of sidewalks or of traffic,” though, he said of protesters, “as long as they are peaceful, they have the First Amendment right to free speech.”
Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffery Smith noted deputies were there in case they were needed.
“We always respect First Amendment rights and peoples’ rights to voice their opinions,” he said.
Smith noted the sizeable number of individuals that gathered Sunday to make their voices heard.
“I think it’s great,” he said.