BLM protest shakes Booneville

Glenn Parrish
About two dozen people gathered at the park at the intersection of Second and Broadway for a Black Lives Matter protest last Thursday. The event remained peaceful throughout and no arrests were made.

About two dozen people braved the heat June 4 to take part in a Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Booneville.

The number of those protesting varied during the five hours set aside for the event which, like many across the country, was held in reaction to the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Ashleigh Wingate, who is African American, and Samantha Street, who is not, organized the event which was was announced on social media two days prior to the event.

Wingate said she notified the mayor’s office and the Booneville Police Department, which kept a presence in the area throughout the event and, according to Lt. Ben Villarreal, had no cause for arrests.

“I said this wasn’t going to be a riot,” said Wingate. ”I’ve read a lot of the negative things. They were worried about their businesses. This is our home. We’re not here to destroy our home. We’re not here to burn it down and all the stuff that’s on the media right now. I want people to look at this town and say, ‘you know what, it can be peaceful.’”

Many passersby honked and waved in support of the group and one business owner sprung for fountain drinks from a local fast food chain.

“Everybody has been very positive like I wanted. It’s turned out great,” Wingate said.

While there weren’t things thrown at them there were a couple of remarks like “their lives shouldn’t matter,” one protester said, and there was at least one person who saluted the group with a middle finger.

“We think birds are OK,” Wingate said. “You know what, that’s okay that’s your opinion.”

Another remark hurled by a passerby was that the group didn’t belong there.

Wingate has lived in Booneville for 31 years and graduated from Booneville High School in 2006. She is thought to be the school district’s first black graduate.

At about the midpoint of the event, all of those protesting with the exception of a couple people, were Booneville residents. Street formerly lived in Booneville.