Louisville’s Occupy ICE protesters said they are preparing for a counter-protest Saturday by a far right-wing, anti-government militia group.
The group has identified the counter-protesters as the Three Percenters of Kentucky, whose national parent organization has been labeled as an “anti-government” group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and have been linked to “racist or ethnically based violence.”
“Based on information we’ve received from our lawyers, and confirmed by several sources reviewing the public posts on social media sites, we are aware of the intention of counter-protesters to make themselves known to Camp Compasión on Saturday, July 7, at 9 a.m.,” read a statement released Friday morning by Occupy ICE Louisville.
The local Occupy Ice protesters have been camping out near Louisville’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices on South Seventh Street since Monday morning as part of a national movement calling for an end to the controversial federal agency. The group is planning a “Brunch and Rally Against Hate” at 8 a.m. at 654 S. Seventh St.
“Camp Compasión is not a safe space, as no space in our world is safe for Black and Brown people,” the statement continued. “It is a brave space. It is a space where we come to learn how to better serve. It is a space where people are putting themselves in harm’s way to actively combat the hate and oppression of white supremacy at work in our government. We ask you to come join us on Saturday as we take protect [sic] our community against this face of white supremacy.”
An administrator for the Three Percenters of Kentucky’s Facebook page told Insider Louisville that the organization plans to rally against the protesters Saturday and that they “have been working with DHS police and LMPD” in advance of the planned action.
The administrator, who declined to give his or her name to Insider, also said that “other organizations” would be showing up in support of the counter-protest but did not specify which organizations.
In a press conference late Friday afternoon, LMPD Chief Steve Conrad said that while he wasn’t aware of other organizations who would be joining the Three Percenters, he denied that the LMPD had been working with the militia.
Conrad said that those who wish to support the Occupy ICE protesters should enter the area on 7th Street at Broadway, and that counter-protesters would be asked to enter 7th Street via Chestnut.
He said that fences and barricades would be deployed to protect people and prohibit vehicular movement, respectively, and that the force has been studying examples of ideological clashes from across the nation, from Charlottesville to Portland and more.
Conrad said that while he believes the protesters at Camp Compasión to be nonviolent, the mix of ideologies tomorrow carries with it the real potential for violence.
“We know that these events bring with them high emotion, as these are issues that people feel very passionate about. We’ve seen areas in this country where people have been able to disagree with no incidents, but unfortunately, we have seen situations in which these demonstrations have turned deadly,” Conrad said. “We don’t want that to happen here, but I would be remiss if I did not let the public know that there is the potential for violence tomorrow.”
In a statement, Mayor Greg Fischer said that “violence of any kind will not be tolerated.”
UPDATED 5:45 PM: This story has been updated to include comments from LMPD Chief Steve Conrad and Mayor Greg Fischer.