Protest tonight at the Clarkesville square

In just under an hour, a rally is to begin at the Clarkesville square over the killing of George Floyd, a black man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer.

At approximately 2:30 p.m. this afternoon, it was business as usual around the square with the only exception being the new marquee at the Habersham Community Theater. The sign has been lit since it was installed on May 19 but today it was dark.

Vice President of Marketing for HCT, Bob Warren, told WCHM that it was out of precaution in order to not draw attention to the theater in case the protest does not remain peaceful. Most businesses on the square were planning on closing early in preparation of the event itself.

As the majority of protests got underway last weekend, outside groups with the intention of disrupting the peace have been seen in cities nationally as well as here in Georgia. Although Clarkesville Police Chief Brad Barrett said he has received some information on that being a possibility tonight, he stressed that nothing has been confirmed and he fully expects a successful, peaceful rally.

"As of right now we don't have any concerns," Barrett said. "It seems to be a well-organized event."

But it didn't start that way. Earlier this week, a graphic on social media was advertising a protest for today with a start time of 3 p.m. It was unclear who the organizers of the event were and that had some residents concerned.

In response, local businesswoman Leslie Terrell planned her own event. She talked with Annie and Morgan Venter, the creators of the social media post, and along with other members of the Habersham community, the decision was made to combine the two into a single event, starting at 6:30 p.m., with a clear and positive message.

Barrett tells WCHM that city police will have a peripheral presence and will be on standby along with surrounding police precincts and the Georgia State Patrol in case extra personnel are needed. He has also been working closely with the Habersham County Sheriff's Office and Habersham County Emergency Services.

"I believe the intentions are going to be good and I don't foresee anything happening other than just a peaceful dialogue," Barrett said.

HCES Director Chad Black said there is an Incident Action Plan in place but did not provide specific details out of public safety concerns.

WCHM will be covering the event live on Facebook starting at 6:30 p.m.