Protesters clash in Minden after sheriff’s statement on Black …

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What started as a protest to support the Douglas County Sheriffs Office in Minden early Saturday turned into a fierce battle of words between hundreds of Blue Lives Matter protesters and a small group of Black Lives Matter protesters.

Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley addressed a crowd of about 400 supporters Saturday morning, many of them chanting Stand with Dan and holding American flags and Godand Guns protest signs.

Dozens of the supporters sported militia-style garb -- camouflage uniforms, helmets and semi-automatic rifles.

I love this community and my focus has and always will be on protecting it," Coverley said in front of the sheriff's office. We understand recent correspondence between myself and the Douglas County library has made national attention and may be the reason you are here today.

In July, the Douglas County Library Boardwas set to consider a draft statement thatread in part: "The Douglas County Public Library denounces all acts of violence, racism and disregard for human rights."

The statement also included the line: "We support #BlackLivesMatter."

The indication of support for the Black Lives Matter movement prompted Coverley to threaten not to respond to 911 calls from the library.

"Due to your support of Black Lives Matter and the obvious lack of support or trust with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, please do not feel the need to call 911 for help," he wrote. "I wish you good luck with disturbances and lewd behavior, since those are just some of the recent calls my office has assisted you with in the past."

Coverley later rescinded the threat, saying his department would continue to respond to all 911 calls. He later said he reacted that way because he "perceived that our office may be under attack."

Sheriff Dan Coverley addresses several hundred supporters who gathered Saturday, Aug. 8 in Minden. Reno Gazette Journal

For the record we support the library and we will continue to protect and serve them, and all citizens and visitors to Douglas County, Coverley said Saturday.

He noted that the sheriffs office has been in contact with library officials as well as members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

I simply meant that if you dont trust law enforcement or the sheriff's office specifically, dont feel the need to ask for help, Coverley said.

Heelaborated on previous comments, saying that he felt attacked by public calls to defund the police. He also said that if police reform means constantly improving his office, he is reforming every day.

Supporters cheered and clapped afterone fan asked when he was going to run for governor.

By 10 a.m., a small counter-protest of about 100 Black Lives Matter supporters had gathered across Main Street in downtown Minden.

"I just hate to see all this happen in our town," said Sally Bowman of Minden, who showed upin support of Coverley. "We hope there's no violence, just peaceful people. We want to keep it that way."

But tensions rose quickly in the ranching town that is home to about 3,000 peopleless than an hour's drive south of Reno.

As counter-protesterschanted Black Lives Matter, a portion of Coverleys supporters gathered on the opposite side of the street chanting "U.S.A." and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Sheriff's deputies monitored the gathering from atop the sheriffs office roof and mounted deputies rode horses up Main Street.

While about two dozen deputies stood in a line outside the sheriffs office and a number were deployed to help control traffic as the crowds flowed into the streets, deputies did not enter the swelling protests until later in the day.

By mid-morning a crowd crossed the street and surrounded the Black Lives Matter group, shouting at them to get the hell out of our town, and calling them a number of obscenities.

Thats just the thing we dont need, everyone has the right to gather, no matter what its for, said Gardnervilles Ted Hanson, who showed up in support of Coverley but prepared to leave as people started surrounding and harassing the Black Lives Matter protesters. No matter what you have to say, youre allowed to protest and practice free speech.

Hanson said he didnt agree with Coverleys rhetoric, but he felt that Coverley and library officials both had the right to express themselves.

I dont instigate problems, but I do read the news and if something happens, were going to get blamed for it, said Hanson, who wore a handgun on his hip.

While Hanson said hed worn his gun only to show that we have rights too, he said it was unloaded, and he did worry that the militiagear was intended to cause fear.

"We're going to head out because something bad is going to happen," said Hanson.

The two groups gathered in Minden on Saturday Reno Gazette Journal

As tensions escalated, a few individuals from the sheriff's supporters began shouting for others to leave the Black Lives Matter protesters alone.

I didnt fight for this. They are allowed to protest too, said an armed man in a cowboy hat who tried stave off an angry crowd surrounding a Black man.

Over the course of the day, the Black Lives Matter protesters continued to move locations around town, citing concerns for their safety, but opponents followed closely at their heels.

At one point, Black Lives Matter protesters locked arms two by two and walked down the sidewalks, as counter-protesters yelled and called them "garbage," saying "You ain't welcome here," and, "The only reason youre not burning s*** is because we outnumber you!"

"This is what its like to be Black in America right here," shouteda white Black Lives Matter protester who stood beside a Black woman.

She is peaceful, she is peaceful, the white woman cried out.

Jerome Silas, of Carson City, said he and about a half-dozen other people organized the Black Lives Matter counter-protest. He was not expecting a warm welcome, but he also didn't think it would get as bad as it did.

"Even if we are a smaller protest, it's going to take hell or high water to move us off our mark," said Silas. "When I turned around in the big crowd of people chasing me out of their town, I was reminded of the 1960s civil rights movements."

All around Mindens downtown, demonstrators from both sidespracticed their own forms of protest.

A man wearing a Native American headdress sang Its my life, by Jon Bon Jovi and a pickup full of young men drove around with large American and Confederate flags waving. Others rode horses around town with Blue Lives Matter T-shirts on.

Many wore hats, shirts and flags as capes promoting President Donald Trump.

A few lone protesters for the Black Lives Matter movement appeared amidthe sea of opposing protesters.

Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter groups clash in Minden on Saturday Aug. 8. Reno Gazette Journal

Many of them were told to take their masks off.

Please put a mask on if youre going to spit on me, said Kat Jackson, who traveled from the Tahoe area to protest.

Jackson, who waved a rainbow flag and wore pink hair, said the environment was immediately hostile when she arrived.

People have been very confrontational, said Jackson, who was visibly shaking as two men shouted at her.

Several altercations had been reported by mid-afternoon Saturday,according to the sheriffs office, though it was not clear if any of them turned physical.

Melissa Blosserof the Sheriffs Officedid not know the extent of resources deployed by the Douglas County Sheriffs Office or howd theyd been allocated throughout the day, but she said Nevada Highway Patrol helped with traffic control and Carson City Sheriffs Office also assisted during the protests.

By late afternoon, most of the protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement appeared to have dispersed, leaving behind a spread out gathering of Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter protesters.

Pro-police protesters surround Black Lives Matter protesters during simultaneous rallies on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2020 in Minden, Nevada. Reno Gazette Journal

The two protest groups converged in Minden on Saturday Aug. 8. Reno Gazette Journal

Several hundred pro-police supporters turned out for a rally in Minden on Saturday, Aug. 8. Reno Gazette Journal

Previous reporting from investigative reporter Anjeanette Damon was included inthis article.

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