When a small group of demonstrators gathered last month in Taneytown for a Black Lives Matter protest, it was met with periods of backlash and anger.
The latest rally took place Saturday, back in Taneytown, with a much larger number of protesters thanks to dedicated promotion and social media attention. Meghann Puckett, one of the event’s planners, said the experience was quite different.
“It was just so much love, so much peace,” said Puckett, who grew up in Taneytown and now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania. “Everybody standing together. It just seemed to be perfect energy.”
Even a small incident toward the end of the rally didn’t deter the group of more than 50 people from preaching its message, Puckett said.
The demonstrators were getting ready for a moment of silence, Puckett said, planned to last for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in recognition of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police in May, when a cluster of people across the street from the Taneytown Police Department began shouting and cursing in the direction of the rally. Puckett said members of the police, who were on standby during the event, came out to keep peace, and nothing escalated.
“I feel like if that’s the worst that happened, it was definitely a success,” Puckett said.
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It was a much different experience than what took place there in June, when Puckett said passersby flashed obscene gestures, yelled racial slurs and threw trash at the protesters. Puckett works with a group called Ambassadors of Love, which she said affiliates with the Black Lives Matter effort and supports its beliefs. Puckett has been involved in several rallies, and said she has heard from fellow protesters in Pennsylvania who felt the police there were dismissive of their cause when the opposing side came equipped with weapons and ammunition in plain view.
That didn’t happen in Taneytown, and Puckett said it’s thanks in part to a cooperative police department.
“I feel like showing up to a peaceful protest armed, especially out in the open like that, you’re trying to instill fear,” she said. “You’re not standing up for a right; you’re trying to antagonize. You’re trying to scare people off.”
Puckett said she gets help hosting rallies from fellow Ambassadors of Love members Matt Anselmi, Katye Anselmi, Jacob Jorge, Jason Officer and Roger Williams. And group leaders were pleased to see a bigger turnout Saturday than at the previous Taneytown event that barely cracked double-digits in attendance.
“Strength in numbers is everything, and people of color are not alone,” Puckett said. “You have so many allies out here that will not stop until we have all the justice that we need for everyone.”
Puckett said she’s still surprised at the opposition of Black Lives Matter protests, but she hopes large crowds of peaceful demonstrators can help everyone see the group’s purpose and mission.
“If you think that the protest needs to stop now when we’re just gaining traction, you clearly do not get why we’re doing this,” she said. “It’s not for you.”