DALLAS — Saturday’s Equality for All Rally at the Polk County Courthouse drew some armed resistance.
“When I planned this rally, it was just simply to celebrate the voices of minorities and underrepresented groups in Dallas,” said Rebecca Hunt.
Dallas Police Chief Tom Simpson said his department learned of the event earlier in the week.
“(It) was reportedly being planned by the same folks who coordinated a few recent peaceful events, even the one which occurred on June 10 with nearly 400 participants,” Simpson said. “(Hunt) told me they expected about 50 people to show up. As it turned out, there were several locals who showed up, having formed the belief they needed to help protect our downtown. Apparently they had somehow heard through social media that someone would show up with plans of causing trouble or damaging property or businesses. Several of those residents were armed—lawfully from what I was able to learn.”
Hunt said the rally had been planned for about a month with “speakers representing all walks of life and a time for our local people to announce their candidacy.”
She said about a week before someone “made up a rumor that Antifa was following us here and rioting and looting everything.”
Hunt said she was messaged several times through the event’s Facebook page by someone saying they were “armed and ready to protect Dallas.”
Another man started sharing on Facebook that the group putting on the rally were “rioters and troublemakers.”
“I pull up first at exactly 5 p.m. and they already have people there, albeit on the other side,” Hunt said. “As people start arriving, they take over the sidewalk. I set us up in the big open area right up front. They start getting loud, so I start us up.”
She said there was an hour of sign waving and chanting, a sort of call and response but from opposing sides.
“‘Black lives matter,’ they would say ‘all lives matter,’ ‘no justice, no peace,’ they would say ‘no Jesus, no peace, ‘say his name,’ turned from ‘George Floyd,’ to ‘Jesus Christ,’” Hunt said.
When speakers started talking, people from the other group tried to scream over them, she said.
Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton attended the event in plain clothes and some deputies were there in uniform.
He said he noticed more hostility than at any of the other recent local rallies in Polk County.
Garton heard comments in crowd that showed people on both sides had misinformation.
“Insults were going both ways, but they can do that legally,” Garton said. “They have the right to disagree. My job is to make sure everybody can do what they are legally allowed to do.”
Hunt said “counter protesters tried to break the human wall we created around our speakers to keep them safe, per my instructions. It’s their voices we are trying to uplift.”
One video viewed by the Itemizer-Observer shows a woman and a man yelling at each other. The woman was wearing a mask and a striped T-shirt. The man was not wearing a mask and was wearing a red “Keep America Great” T-shirt. The woman then stood with her back to him while he told her to get away from him and said that if she leaned into him, “you’re going to get f-ing decked.” Then another woman in a dress went to stand in her place. At that point, the man shoved the woman in the dress and within three seconds, PCSO deputy Alaster Graham entered the frame and yelled, “Do not touch her,” at the man and moved him back to the sidewalk.
“Conversations were tried to be had, but no one could hear over screaming,” Hunt said. “Both sides were very heated, so I’m not sure how productive those conversations were. Neither side used nice language and neither side was innocent of yelling.”
Hunt said after about three hours, most of the “opposition dissipated,” and those there for the rally sat in a circle and took “turns with the bullhorn to go over what we have seen, experienced, ways to fix things.”
As they were cleaning up, at about 10:30 p.m., someone yelled at Crystal Hayter about an “ACAB” (“all cops are bastards”) flag someone brought to the event, Hunt said.
“While we don’t agree with it and talked to the young people who had brought it, it was their right,” she said.
Hayter attended with her wife Jasmine and son, but had her mother pick up her son almost immediately because of threats the counter group was yelling, she said.
“Several times we were told our heads would be bashed in, that we are a waste of space and should die,” Hayter said. “I’ve been told not to ‘breed’ and that my kids are likely r*tards. I’ve been told I am a race traitor for being married to a black woman. That I am a fat dyke. That my sister should kill herself. Folks said they would be happy if we committed suicide. They wouldn’t stop till we leave town.”
She said she has mostly stayed home since the rally.
“I fear for my life and the lives of my family,” Hayter said.
She said a photo of her child has been circulated online and she has been harassed through social media.
Hayter, who is running for Dallas city council, said she has been told if she wants the harassment to stop to drop out of the race.
“We received some complaints during and after the event of some shoving between participants which may constitute unlawful acts,” Simpson said. “I’m reviewing available video footage (Monday) to see what else we can learn and also will be contacting the persons who were potentially crime victims and see if they are willing to initiate incident reports. I know of about (three or four) at this point.”
Hunt said they have received more threats since the rally.
She and some others in the group that put on the rally met with Simpson Monday evening.
“I brought (the threats) up during my meeting with the Chief of Police, Sheriff, Deputy Lieutenant, and city manager,” Hunt said. “They voiced concern but stated that because it is on social media, there is no crime for being a jerk.”
Hunt said she plans on having another rally that is more in line with the original intention of the one that happened on July 18.
“Celebration would be my vision,” she said. “Give our underrepresented and diverse community members a place to shine and be celebrated instead of bullied. Music to go with their dance, a safe place to voice the hurt and pain they have felt and to advise us allies on what they need from us.”
She wants it to be a rally of support, “so they know they are never alone. I want to show Dallas what community looks like.”
Anyone wishing to participate in the next rally, may contact Hunt through Facebook or email at email@example.com.