Meghann Puckett helped organize a Black Lives Matter protest in Taneytown in June, and was taken aback at what she and her small group of protesters witnessed in her hometown.
Puckett, a Francis Scott Key High School graduate who now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, said she has always been aware of racism that exists in Carroll County. What happened during that BLM march and protest merely confirmed it to others, she said.
“We had more middle fingers shown at us than I have ever experienced in my life, and everyone else agreed,” Puckett said. “We had trash thrown at us. We had racial slurs yelled at us, ‘White Power,' all kinds of crazy things. ... It was really baffling to me that we received so much hate when we’re promoting a message of love.”
Puckett is getting ready to promote her message once again. She’s one of the hosts of another Black Lives Matter event that is scheduled for Saturday, July 11 from 5-8 p.m. at the Taneytown Police Department.
Puckett said she wanted to keep the previous gathering low-key to gauge how it might be received by the community. Taneytown police gave her support to host the protest, she said, but many passersby voiced their feelings for Puckett and her fellow protesters to consider the event a success.
“The hate that we were met with, what I received from that was, OK, this means that the message is needed even more,” Puckett said. “I took three weeks to promote it. We shared it apologetically, we were not in fear.”
Puckett works with a group called Ambassadors of Love, which she said affiliates with the Black Lives Matter effort and supports its beliefs. She recently teamed with Sage Essed, a 2015 Francis Scott Key grad who is involved with local marches and protests against racial injustice.
Their first collective protest took place June 19 in Taneytown. They said they’re hoping their second gathering is bigger and more effective.
“I’m just trying to spread a message of community love, and unity,” Essed said. “I would just like to bring more people together. And not trying to fight against all that racism, just, like, spread more love.”
The Peaceful Black Lives Matter Protest/March is planning a prayer and reading of names, according to its Facebook page, before concluding its march at the Taneytown Police Department with a moment of silence ― set to last 8 minutes, 46 seconds, to recognize the death of George Floyd.
Puckett said she was contacted by Taneytown police earlier this week saying they would have support during the protest.
“It’s great when we have public officials, it’s great when we have police on board for our safety,” Puckett said. “However, this is our First Amendment right, and with or without them we’re going to continue.”
Similar protests and marches have been taking place around Carroll County over the last two months, from Manchester to Westminster to Sykesville. There’s a National March for Black Lives gathering planned for Aug. 1 at City Hall in Westminster.
Some of the prior protests were met with hecklers and apparent anger, but Puckett and Essed said that’s spurring the Taneytown group to push forward with its mission after what it experienced a few weeks ago.
“It was kind of ridiculous,” said Essed, who felt a more positive vibe during a June 6 march through town. “That was met with a ton of positivity, and I’m not sure if it was because we had more people involved. We had around 100 people for that.”
Puckett is using her Peaceful BLM Facebook page to keep people updated and promote the protest. She has been more active in Pennsylvania by helping with events in Gettysburg and Hanover. But Puckett said she felt drawn to return to Taneytown and help spread her group’s message of love and unity.
“We understand that others will not agree with that. We will have counter-protesters,” Puckett said. “Stay silent, don’t fight back. Because hate begets hate. Stand for what you believe in.