Palmerton Council releases statement on protest
Palmerton Borough Council released a statement following a heated clash between Black Lives Matter supporters and counterprotesters in the park on Delaware Avenue earlier this month.
A handful of residents raised concerns at council’s meeting Thursday regarding the peaceful demonstration last Saturday that turned into a confrontation.
Councilman Terry Costenbader read a prepared statement on behalf of the borough:
“Police in Palmerton - including Randy Smith, chief of the borough’s force - were aware of the Black Lives Matter protest scheduled for July 18 before it took place. Smith, Costenbader said, pre-emptively met with members of the demonstration and agreed to assist them with keeping the peace.”
Then a post on social media claiming hundreds of people were being bused into Palmerton for the protest started to spread. That did not happen, but an opposing group began organizing its own gathering.
Smith orchestrated additional police protection for the weekend, and Palmerton Volunteer Fire Company members were put on standby, Costenbader said.
As evidenced by social media posts and in news coverage of the event, some members of the two groups insulted each other. A handful of counter protesters carried guns, and one Black Lives Matter supporter, named Sierra Hahn, said protesters on her side were “screamed at, spit on and on the receiving end of racial slurs.”
The borough reiterated that it cannot block peaceful protests from taking place in the area and thanked police for their work on July 18.
The municipality also asked people to be respectful of each other.
“We urge all groups to respect the views and free speech rights of others,” Costenbader read. “Borough council is also open to discussions with groups to get their points of view and recommendations.”
There has been no official word on additional protests scheduled for Palmerton as of Friday.