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Prineville protest: Bigger crowd, more police, concrete barriers, less tension

Prineville protest Tyson 620
Tyson Beauchemin/KTVZ
Concrete barriers lined Third Street in downtown Prineville during Saturday's protest, counterprotest

(Update: Initial info from Saturday's protest scene)

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A larger crowd of Black Lives Matter protesters and counter-protesters gathered Saturday afternoon in downtown Prineville, where a larger police presence and concrete barriers lining Third Street apparently helped to reduce tensions from a week earlier.

Hundreds of people were on hand, as well as numerous police, and concrete barriers were put in place to keep the sign-carrying protesters out of the Street.

After four arrests during last Saturday's event for going into the street, police reported no arrests by late afternoon. They had warned days earlier that anyone who crossed into the street and broke traffic laws would be arrested.

The owner of a downtown Prineville frozen yogurt shop said Friday she was comfortable opening her business Saturday, despite the face-off of protesters and counter-protesters and a heavier police presence aimed at keeping it peaceful.

"I feel safe. I feel comfortable,” said Traci Haley, owner of Yo Central, located across the street from Prineville City Hall.

“I think the police are doing a lot more to be prepared this time," she said, "so they will be even more prepared to deal with any violence or upheaval that might happen."

Indeed, Prineville Police Chief Dale Cummins is still using Facebook posts to reassure residents police will do what they must to keep things civil – with a firm hand and more arrests, if need be --  despite coming under some criticism for a recent Facebook video post in which he and a resident disputed what a protest organizer shared online about a recent meeting,

Last Saturday's protests led to four arrests and brought some tense encounters between the two sides.

Here’s Cummins’ Thursday evening post about this Saturday’s plans:

“As we approach Saturday’s demonstration, I wanted to provide information on the Police Department’s plan to ensure the safety of those exercising their constitutional rights and the community at large.

“I am advising the community that we will have a strong law enforcement presence at the event. We will also be video recording in and around the event to support criminal prosecution if criminal acts occur. Traffic laws will be strictly enforced in and around the event.

“In an effort to keep the state highway open, anyone stepping on to the state highway will be subject to arrest for disorderly conduct. Officers will also be looking for other violations that could distract from the event, such as open containers of alcohol, and will take enforcement action.

“The safety of everyone involved is of the utmost importance and our primary concern. We can enforce the laws, but each individual is encouraged to use civility, respect, and tolerance. Only then can we have a truly peaceful event,” Cummins wrote.

Cummins also posted an update Friday after Prineville's Post Office erected a chain-link fence around the building. He said the postmaster had notified the U.S. Postal Service district office in Portland about Saturday's protest.

"US Post Office protocol is to close their buildings when demonstrations are in close proximity to their offices," Cummins wrote.

“This is not an indicator of any expected outcome; it is simply how the postal service responds to these events nationwide,” the police chief said. “The city still has every expectation that the event will be peaceful."

Another business on Third Street, Tastee Treat, does plan to close early, at noon on Saturday, after serving breakfast, in case things get out of hand.

Haley said, "I'm disappointed in the business that's closing early, because we have a great opportunity to show our best face to people visiting from out of town."

She said she's still open to demonstrations in Prineville -- as long as they stay peaceful.

"I've had protesters -- from both sides, I believe -- come in after the protests and get frozen yogurt, and they are always really polite," she said. "They don't give me any trouble. And I'm just happy they come in and have some of my frozen yogurt."

Article Topic Follows: Central Oregon

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