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Democrats set up voter registration effort at rural racism protest this weekend

Demonstrations fan out to rural areas on eastern shore of Maryland where Abolitionist Frederick Douglass lived.

Updated: June 6, 2020 - 1:12pm

On Maryland's Eastern Shore this weekend, the Black Lives Matter movement will reach inside rural America with a planned protest against racism in the tiny enclave of Easton, about 90 miles from Washington DC.

It's a venue with plenty electricity, including a local sheriff who has been vocal in his criticism of the Minneapolis police tactics that led to George Floyd's death and two memorials with very different racial significance. The historic courthouse downtown is flanked with a statue honoring the slave turned abolitionist Frederick Douglass and another dubbed the Talbot Boys commemorating Confederate soldiers.

And just to make sure politics isn't lost on the moment, the Talbot County Democratic Party is setting up a voter registration drive at the Talbot County courthouse where the groups We are Human and Black Lives Matters are hosting a Kneel for Justice event.

The lead up to the event has already generated lots of anxiety, and news.

Earlier this week, police made the rounds to local shops in Easton advising the owners and their staff to remove anything outside that may end up through a window.

Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble, who brought the community together to fight the opiate epidemic a few years ago, and was recognized personally for his Talbot Goes Purple campaign by Vice President Mike Pence has come out damning the Minneapolis police in the Floyd case in an interview with the local Talbot Spy. 

Gamble said no police are trained to put a knee on anyone’s neck. He also reminded the public that President Trump has little to do with police training and that responsibility rests with state legislatures. Gamble is a law enforcement veteran, who led the Homicide Division for the Maryland State Police, and has conducted internal investigations of police bad behavior.

On Friday, the Easton Police Department put a notice on social media, “The members of your Easton Police Department are as disgusted with racial injustices seen from other law enforcement agencies across this nation, as many of you are. The actions taken against George Floyd were absolutely unnecessary and should have never happened. We support all peaceful protests that can reignite a movement towards healing and improved relationships. Your Easton Police will be prepared to protect all citizens who choose to be heard and participate in these peaceful protests.” 

When it was posted on the Democratic Talbot social media, the response was “Show up and Speak out.”  

We are Human’s social media page states, “We are Human believes we can become an anti-racist and racially equitable community. We are Talbot County Community members, who plot, plan, educate, strategize, organize, and mobilize to regain the humanity lost as a result of systemic racism and white supremacy.”

The local police do not know where the expected out-of-town demonstrators live. Within the last week, Maryland State Police stopped Larry Ross, an Easton resident, about 20 miles away near Cambridge, Maryland for a traffic violation. He ran, police followed, took him into custody and he died. An investigation is now underway.

Cambridge, Maryland has a long history of racial riots going back to the early civil rights years in the early and late 1960s from which they have never fully healed. 

 On Friday, the local Star-Democrat published a Guest Column by Dominic “Mickey Terrone, who wrote, “Nothing will change until police-men are punished for their racism...It is not a crime to be a racist in the USA. However, racists do not belong in positions of public authority.” Terrone has been outspoken about the Talbot Boys for a long time. 

“Locally, the overt symbol of the issue of racism and white supremacy is the bronze Talbot Boys statute that sits on county courthouse property atop the memorial to the 85 locals who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War,” wrote Terrone, “Moving that bronze statue off the memorial to private property would be a strong message to all citizens that racism and white supremacy are no longer tolerated here, much less idolized by the bronzed confederate flag and flag bearer.” 

Just blocks away on Saturday, Talbot4all, which was started by local citizen Dan Watson, is hosting a second stand-in for the memory of George Floyd. 

Last weekend Watson invited local citizens on social media to demonstrate. About 400 citizens showed up and, according to Watson, “70% of them were white demonstrators.” The Talbot County Democrats filmed the demonstrators and posted the video on their Facebook page

Watson took out an ad in the Star Democrat on Friday calling for locals to show up again and reminding them, “Remember….Silence is Violence.” 

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