ROGERSVILLE — Eight of the nine people arrested during Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest in Rogersville were identified by police as members of a non-local white supremacist group who allegedly attempted to agitate other peaceful protesters by yelling profanity and racial slurs.
The group allegedly became involved in a scuffle after being confronted by other counter- protesters about their foul language and racial slurs.
After spending two nights in the Hawkins County Jail, all eight were arraigned Monday in Sessions Court on one count of disorderly conduct. They were released Monday on $1,000 bond, and an Oct. 5 trial date was set for each of them.
Those eight defendants are Craig Briggs Spaulding, 33, of Knoxville; Caleb Dane Rose, 21, of Knoxville; Adam Lawrence Rice, 24, of Maryville; Cory Smith, 25, of Knoxville; Stephen Parker Smith, 27, of Louisville, Tenn.; Garon Joseph Archer, 25, of Johnson City; Sean Camron Kauffmann, 26, of Vail, Ariz.; and Joshua Blakeney, 20, of Morristown.
“Using racial slurs numerous times”
Rogersville Police Department Officer Josh Byrd filed a similar police report for Spaulding, Rose, Rise, and both Smiths that stated, “Officers located a large group of male subjects within the protest who were observed yelling, using racial slurs numerous times. These comments were an attempt to agitate the other peaceful protesters and was creating a hazardous situation to protesters and officers.”
Byrd further stated, “A short time later, officers observed a large fight taking place during the protest which included several of the males involved in said party.”
The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office arrest reports filed by Deputy Eric Pease for Archer, Kauffmann and Blakeney stated they “became violent and started trying to assault several people the crowd.”
Bulls Gap man Sentenced to 10 days in jail
The ninth arrestee was Daniel Lee Starnes, 41, of Bulls Gap, who was charged with disorderly conduct after he reportedly destroyed a flower arrangement that was placed on the Hawkins County War Memorial in front of the courthouse by police at the request of the BLM protesters.
Protesters wanted to place the flowers on the memorial themselves to show they had no intentions of doing damage, but police wouldn’t allow them to cross the barrier between protesters and counter-protesters due to concerns about keeping them safe.
Police instead agreed to place the flowers for the protesters. Police said Starnes immediately picked them up and tossed them into the crowd.
Starnes pleaded guilty Monday in Sessions Court to one count of disorderly conduct and was sentenced to 10 days in jail with early release eligibility after serving 75%.
Rogersville Police Department Chief Doug Nelson and Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson told the Times News on Monday they are very grateful to the outside law enforcement agencies that assisted with crowd control and keeping the peace Saturday evening.
Nelson said the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen is expected to consider approval of a proclamation at its Tuesday meeting recognizing the efforts of everyone who helped make Saturday’s protest peaceful.
Approximately 200 police officers worked Saturday’s protest. Police estimated the number of protesters at slightly more than 100 and the number of counter-protesters over 200.
”For the most part it was peaceful”
Aside from the RDP and HCSO, other police agencies that were present included the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Jefferson City Police Department, Kingsport Police Department, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, Greeneville Police Department, Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Grainger County Sheriff’s Office, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and the Morristown Police Department.
Police worked in cooperation with Hawkins County EMS, the Hawkins County Emergency Management Agency and Hawkins County 911, Lawson added.
“It was a great cooperation with multiple law enforcement agencies coming together to make this event go as good as it possibly could,” Lawson said. “No one really got injured, and for the most part is was peaceful. I feel like it went very well.”
”If we had to, we’d take care of business”
The only serious altercation was the scuffle involving the white supremacist group, Lawson noted.
“There was a disagreement between them and other counter-protesters about their views, and an altercation started, but it was quickly subdued by the officers in that area,” Lawson said. “I feel like the huge level of law enforcement presence kept this event calm and prevented other potentially violent confrontations from escalating. We had a lot of comments from both sides about the demeanor and professionalism of the law enforcement officers.”
Lawson added, “They (police) did a fantastic job. We were there to make sure it stayed peaceful, and if we had to, we’d take care of business, but we didn’t have to hardly except for that one incident. But we seen with that one incident involving the white supremacists it can turn dangerous in just a heartbeat.”
”We had God’s favor”
A lifelong resident of Rogersville who last week celebrated the 43rd anniversary of becoming a police officer, Lawson said he never expected to see a protest in Rogersville like what occurred Saturday evening.
“I’ve never thought, and still don’t think, that Rogersville and Hawkins County are racist communities,” Lawson said. “It’s just a great place to live. But for the most part it was peaceful and nothing got damaged, so all in all it was a good day.”
Lawson added, “We felt the prayers of the Christian people throughout a week of preparation and throughout the whole event. A tremendous amount of prayers went up. Friday night there was a big prayer service in Town Square, and we could feel those. We had God’s favor.”