LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Street closures, barricades and a larger police presence are planned in downtown Louisville this weekend in preparation of reported armed counter-protesters gathering to oppose ongoing demonstrations for racial justice.
The Louisville Metro Police Department posted a statement on Facebook saying it will patrol Jefferson Square and use bike racks along Jefferson Street to keep opposing protesters separated from those already camping in the park. The demonstrations in the park have focused on demanding justice in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, supporting Black Lives Matter and calling for police reform.
According to LMPD's Facebook post, officers will restrict meters parking at meters on Jefferson, Liberty and Sixth streets, which border Jefferson Square. Jefferson and Liberty streets will close by 7 a.m. Saturday between Fifth and Seventh streets. Sixth Street will close from Market to Liberty streets by 7 a.m., as well.
"LMPD remains committed to peaceful expression of views under the First Amendment. As we have done for several weeks, there will be no need for police intervention as long as there is no threat to personal or public safety," the post states. "We will not tolerate the barricading of streets by non-law enforcement, impeding traffic, or attempting to threaten or force people not involved in the protests from their intended destination."
Screenshots of social media posts shared with WDRB News suggest members of a group called the American Freedom Fighters will gather Saturday morning in downtown Louisville in opposition to the protesters gathered in Jefferson Square.
A member of the group posted a video to social media claiming the group's counter demonstration has the support from some within LMPD.
LMPD spokeswoman Jessie Halladay said the department has been in contact with organizers "to get information for our planning purposes." She said the department does the same thing with "all anticipated protest activity." But Halladay said the department did not express support for any disruptive actions from the group or other demonstrators.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer acknowledged the reports of counter-protesters in a tweet earlier this week. "We are aware of rumors suggesting that armed militia are coming to downtown Louisville this weekend," he said in a tweet Thursday afternoon. "Our message is simple: We don’t need you here. Our focus is on facilitating peaceful protests."
To oppose the counter-protesters, the Facebook group Derbycity Autonomous Collective has scheduled an event titled "Louisville Against Outside Agitators" for 9 a.m. Saturday. In the event description, the group took aim at the counter-protesters, claiming they are "often members of alt-right militias" or "part of far-right groups with white nationalist beliefs."
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