If you weren’t already convinced that this moment in the long struggle for racial justice was different, consider this: Harrison and Cabot, cities with overwhelmingly white populations and ugly racial histories, both held peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstrations Thursday.

Harrison, in particular, has struggled to overcome its reputation as sundown town and haven for white supremacists. Thom Robb, the national director of the Ku Klux Klan, lives in the unincorporated town of Zinc near Harrison, but uses a Harrison post office box. Leaders in Harrison have long worked to overcome its history and reputation, but according to the 2010 Census, the city remains 95 percent white. A task force on race relations has been at work since 2003.

Daniella Scott, a black woman who moved to Harrison in 2011, founded a Boone County group of Indivisible and organized yesterday’s demonstration. The Arkansas Times profiled her in 2018.

I talked this morning to photographer Beth Crenshaw, a lifelong Harrison resident who shared the photos above.

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“It was just really beautiful to see that many people in our town with our racist history come together,” she said. “I can’t imagine that happening even 10 years ago.”

She guessed that around 150 attended the peaceful demonstration yesterday. She said she knew a number of people who had stayed away because they were scared bad actors would disrupt the peaceful gathering. There were people carrying AR-15 rifles standing on the edges of the demonstration; they maintained that they were there to protect property and peaceful protest, she said. 

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Will Yandell, a student at the University of Arkansas School of Law* whose Twitter coverage of protests in the last week has been invaluable as a record of the events, was on the scene yesterday in Cabot. Ninety-one percent of the Lonoke County city is white, according to the latest census. Cabot has long been a landing spot for white flight from Little Rock and North Little Rock.

Yandell captured video of Cabot Mayor Ken Kincade welcoming demonstrators and thanking them for raising awareness about racism. Kincade described Cabot as a “progressive city.”

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But, like in Harrison, there were also heavily armed folks watching on the edge of the demonstration, who said they were there to protect property.

 

*A previous version of this post incorrectly said that Will Yandell attends UA Little Rock’s Bowen School of Law.