'Don't give them the attention they want,' Police chief advises about potential protesters
The leader of a white nationalist group said his supporters were taking “no public action” Thursday in Lexington as city leaders and members of the public met to consider moving two Confederate statues.
Matthew Heimbach, chairman of the Traditionalist Workers Party, was in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday for a white nationalist rally that turned violent, and on Monday said that he and other white nationalist groups are planning a rally in Lexington, but no date has been set. He said he and other white nationalist leaders would be meeting with Lexington “community members to create our plan for our grassroots organizing campaign.”
Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard planned to deploy extra officers at the Lexington Urban County Council meeting and downtown Thursday night to provide security.
He said officers have already been providing extra patrols in the area where the statues are located, and while there have been no disturbances, he said the officers have helped plenty of people who approached to ask where they can find them.
The council voted unanimously Thursday night to endorse a proposal to move statues of Confederate Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge and Confederate general John Hunt Morgan. On Tuesday, the 15-member council voted unanimously to put the issue on the agenda of its Thursday night meeting. With that proposal now approved, the city will work to identify a new location for the statues and seek permission from the Kentucky Military Heritage Commission to move the statues.
Barnard said in a statement Thursday afternoon that no permit to rally has been issued to the Traditionalist Worker Party or any related group. However, Lexington requires a permit only if a group wants to shut down streets.
“I want to make it very clear that we have received no indication of a protest or demonstration planned in Lexington, not today, not this weekend and not in the near future,” Barnard said. “So far the city has received no requests for permits from any local or outside group.”
Barnard said the department is in contact with the FBI, Kentucky State Police, Louisville Metro Police and others and “will be ready to respond if a protest were to occur.”
He said at a news conference that Lexington police have been inundated with questions from people concerned about a possible white nationalist rally. Some businesses in the Cheapside area have been provided with officers’ cell phone numbers in case of an emergency.
“People are kind of fearful of the unknown,” he said. “...We have a plan in place. We do a lot of training with it.”
Herald-Leader reporter Karla Ward contributed to this report.