Louisville Metro Police are making preparations to separate opposing militia groups downtown Louisville on Saturday morning ahead of planned marches.
The Atlanta-based Black Militia NFAC announced a march in Louisville last weekend. Right-wing militia groups affiliated with the Three Percenters said they would show up in response.
LMPD Special Operations Commander Major Aubrey Gregory said they will secure two areas with bike rack barriers to keep opposing protesters separated and will have an increased presence to ensure the peaceful expression of First Amendment rights.
NFAC Founder John “Grandmaster Jay” Johnson called on members to show up on Saturday dressed in black, armed with shotguns, rifles and semiautomatic weapons. Three Percenter groups have said they are coming to provide “security” and regularly appear armed at demonstrations.
“I hear there is some anxiety and some concerns about what might be coming on or going on here in Louisville on Saturday,” Gregory said. “We expect nothing but a peaceful protest this weekend.”
Gregory said it’s unclear how many people will actually turn out for the event, but he has been in contact with people from the opposing militia groups. He said both sides have assured police they intend to hold peaceful demonstrations downtown.
To help keep the peace, LMPD are planning roadblocks beginning around 8 a.m. They are expected to cover the area around Metro Hall and Jefferson Square Park. Parking will also be off-limits in the area on Saturday.
Gregory said the design will be similar to what police did last month during a similar armed protest planned for downtown.
In that case, the armed group never appeared, but protesters armed themselves in response. later that night, 27-year-old photographer Tyler Gerth was killed in Jefferson Square Park after police said a man grabbed a gun from the holster of another protester and shot Gerth.
J.J. MacNab, an expert on extremism with George Washington University, has said that the kind of armed protests expected in Louisville on Saturday create volatile situations.
Here are the specifics on LMPD’s plans for Saturday:
- Have a visible police presence in the area of Jefferson Square Park.
- Secure two areas, utilizing bike rack barriers, to keep opposing protestors separated. The buffer zone between those two areas will be on 5th Street.
- Prohibit parking at all parking meters on the streets surrounding Jefferson Square Park (Jefferson, 6th and Liberty streets)
- Close down Jefferson Street between 4th and 7th streets. (Road closures start at 8 a.m.)
- Close down Liberty Street between 5th and 7th streets.
- Close down 5th Street between Market Street and Muhammad Ali.
- Close down 6th Street between Market and Liberty streets.