Two organizations that called for a candlelight vigil and peaceful demonstration Friday, June 5, near Rehoboth Beach are no longer sponsoring the event, but individuals still plan on protesting.
The independent peace protest is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., Friday, June 5, on the sidewalk adjacent to the Exxon station on Route 1 just north of Rehoboth Beach.
“We don't support violence and we don't support the destruction of property just to distract people from the real issue, which is systemic racism,” said Charlotte King, chairwoman of Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice. “We won't allow potential intruders to misuse or discredit our purpose.”
Protests, sometimes followed by looting and violence, have erupted across the country after the death of George Floyd, who died May 25 after a Minnesota police officer held him to the ground with his knee on Floyd's neck.
SDARJ pulled out as a sponsor of the June 5 event because the group did not want to be associated with any potential disrupters who may show up, King said. Another sponsor, the Women's March Sussex-DE, withdrew its support in a press release sent hours before SDARJ pulled its sponsorship. “We do not want to give space and place to an organized group meant to disrupt and turn the focus from why people are rallying to how people are rioting,” the Women's March group said in a statement.
Although King said she had not heard of a particular group planning to attend the June 5 protest, she said she had heard rumors that a group from Dover planned to disrupt the June 1 protest that was held at The Bandstand in Rehoboth Beach. “There's so much confusion out there,” she said.
A protest held May 30 in Wilmington was marred by some who broke windows of storefronts on Market Street, and others who broke in and stole items from area businesses. The next day in Dover, a group splintered off from a peaceful protest in the downtown area, and headed to Dover Mall where some stores were looted. “There were outsiders in all those groups,” King said.
Gov. John Carney also said he heard reports that out-of-state agitators were involved in the Wilmington protest that caused damage to businesses. “To have people who maybe aren't from here or don't have the best interest of our city and state uppermost in their mind … to be instigating destruction is just very frustrating for me,” he said during a June 2 press conference.
During the June 1 protest in Rehoboth Beach, about 40 Delaware State Police troopers showed up, providing a presence in town and at the Tanger Outlet stores on Route 1, but there was no damage to property or businesses. Master Cpl. Melissa Jaffe said they are aware of the June 5 event, and DSP will provide extra patrol.
“We'll all be there on June 5, but I'll leave the banner at home,” King said. “I'll be marching as Charlotte King, resident of Lewes, and all the members will be marching as residents, not as members of the alliance.”
On June 19, the SDARJ is planning a virtual town hall for a dialogue on police brutality and the dangers facing African Americans and other people of color in America.