Several dozen people gathered outside the Hernando County Courthouse in Brooksville Friday night to show their support for a Confederate statue.
- Law enforcement out to guard against violence
- Social media indicated counter-protesters might show up
- Barricades placed around statue to deter would-be vandals
There had been comments posted on social media throughout the day that it might turn into a protest with counter protesters so there was a heavy law enforcement presence, as well.
"We encourage people's First Amendment right to demonstrate peacefully, but if they turn to violence or they destroy personal or public property, we're going to take appropriate and decisive and speedy action," said Sheriff Al Nienhuis.
The county placed barricades around the statue to deter people from vandalizing it or trying to tear it down. County employees were sent home early and roads around the courthouse were closed down, while sheriff's deputies and Brooksville police officers lined the streets.
"We are keeping an eye on it," said Brooksville Police Chief George Turner. "We are prepared for whatever happens."
Businesses owners in the "town square" around the courthouse worried that they could be affected.
"When I first saw what was going on today, I put a call in to the Sheriff's Office to ask if we should take any extra precautions to protect the business, because of all the violence that's happened at these protests," said Debra Davis.
There was one minor skirmish as a man who supports removing the statue was interviewed near people who want it to stay put.
"We are not klansmen," yelled one woman in the crowd.
"I never said you were," the man responded.
For the most part things remained peaceful, but some residents said they are worried about outside influences dividing their town.
"If the citizens of Brooksville want to have an active debate on whether or not this statue stays, then let's have that debate peacefully," said Jason Sager. "But that's not what these people want. They're trying to come up here and push people into doing violent things and that's not who we are."