PIKEVILLE, Ky. (WSAZ) – Officials in Pikeville were hoping for the best but were ready for the worst when hundreds gathered downtown for a rally for the Traditionalist Worker Party, and a counter protest to the rally Saturday.
The Traditionalist Worker party announced their plans to come to Pikeville on Facebook with the goal to take a stand for white working families. They are recognized as a white nationalist hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Preparations for the rally began several weeks ago when the group had put in a request to rally. After word got out about their plans to come to Pikeville, groups of counter protesters began planning on showing up as well. Their goal was to spread the message of equality for all races.
“Not in my lifetime has there ever been anything like this in the city,” said Kyle Newsome. Newsome is a lifelong Pike County resident and attends the University of Pikeville.
Newsome says the craze and attention was the exact opposite of what residents of Pikeville wanted to have for their town.
“The majority of the people I've spoken to just want them to go home,” said Newsome. “And they sort wish the counter protesters hadn't come and these people would just do what they're (the Traditionalist Worker Party) gonna do and leave.”
Newsome said he and his classmates had heard warnings from officials with the city and university, and some even decided to leave town ahead of the potential violence.
“I have a friend who lives in Belfry who's staying out of the city,” said Newsome. “I have a friend who lives in Louisa and he went home. He skipped work on Friday so he could go home because he didn't feel safe living on campus while this was happening.”
Law enforcement from several agencies including Pikeville Police, Pike County Sheriff, Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife, and Homeland Security were on standby to make sure the protests didn’t turn violent.
Though there was yelling, obscene gestures, and large crowds, there were no reports of violence. Barricades were set up to keep them separated.
Both parties had cleared by 5 p.m.