Nearly 500 residents from Dickinson and the surrounding area formed human barriers around local businesses, including the Prairie Hills Mall, to ensure that no looting or violence occurred. The presence of these Dickinson defenders came following rumors of provocateurs seeking to take advantage of the peaceful protests to cause damage to local businesses, as was seen in riots across the country.
In Dickinson, their message was succinct.
“We support their right to protest, but we will not tolerate violence or looting in our town,” Biker Brian, with the Bad Pennies Riders Club, said. The sentiments were widely shared by all in attendance.
The citizens who poured into the parking lot of the mall and other businesses did so voluntarily and with the intention of protecting Dickinson after social media posts circulated rumors of buses of people arriving from Fargo with the intent to incite violence and riots.
The organizers of the protests said they were not aware of any outsiders coming and continued their calls for non-violence and unity, saying the protests were seeking only to shed light on the unjust death of George Floyd, an african-american man killed while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Throughout much of the day and the entirety of the night, large contingencies of residents alternated shifts ensuring that local businesses were safe from any looting. Despite occasionally high tensions, the events transpired peacefully without any violence, rioting/looting or clashes with officers.
The Dickinson Police Department issued a statement commending the peaceful nature of the protesters and the vigilance and support of citizens who sought to protect their community.
“What an amazing evening. Thank you all who attended the truly peaceful demonstration. We would also like to thank those peacefully protecting area businesses, and all those that showed support to us and one another,” Dickinson Police Department’s statement read. “The memory of George Floyd was honored beautifully, and the sense of unity and healing was truly felt by all. We all hope the dialogue of justice, understanding and equality reverberates amongst us all, and remains in our human collective for days, months, and years to come.”
The message concluded with, “Good night Dickinson, we are proud of you.”
Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee issued a similar statement.
“I would like to take a moment to personally thank the citizens of Stark County, the men and women of the Stark County Sheriff's Office, the Dickinson Police Department and all of the support agencies and groups that assisted in making yesterday’s peaceful protest a success,” Lee said. “I am very proud of our community for our ability to work together, stay calm and for the fact that we are each able to exercise our views and concerns peacefully, intelligently, and with very little to no confrontation.”
Lee continued, “Thank you everyone for getting your messages across in a safe and responsible, yet effective manner. You make me feel extremely privileged and proud to be your Sheriff.”
Throughout the duration of the event and well into the night, non-participating members of the community came together to support those individuals toeing the line around the mall through donations of water and food in a sign of appreciation and support.
“I’m proud of them. We’re a small town dealing with a lot already and we don’t need that violence we see on the news,” Joann Figueroa, a resident of Dickinson who delivered water to the impromptu security, said. “What makes me proud to live here in Dickinson is that we have people like this who freely volunteered their time and efforts to come out here and protect our town. I’ve seen them at the vape shop and here at the mall and it’s just great.”
Figueroa added, “I was moved and that’s why I wanted to help by bringing them water.”
Brad Coleman, owner of Vapes & Sups on Villard Street, said that he was pleasantly surprised when a handful of defenders came to his storefront to protect his business from any potential escalation of violence.
“Basically customers and people were telling me that they had heard that businesses could be targeted during the protest or throughout the night. A group of people rallied at my store and stayed with me to ensure that we defended violence with peace,” Coleman said. “We were there all night and it’s great to see the community care for our local businesses and protect us when no one else might have.”
Tensions were eased after protesters left all at once around 8:00 p.m., without incident, though many of the defenders stayed on guard in front of businesses throughout the night.
According to the police blotter there were no crimes associated with the protest and no arrests were made.
“Hate has no place here – not on our streets, not in our schools and not in our communities. What I see here from our community is love,” Figueroa said. “I’m proud of our defenders.”