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Peaceful protest unites residents, police in Spring Hope

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SPRING HOPE — Local law enforcement officials, town leaders and residents came together last week for a peaceful protest and march through downtown Spring Hope.

Carrying Black Lives Matter signs and chanting “No Justice, No Peace; No Racist Police,” a diverse crowd of around 100 people marched around the town June 2, stopping for a speech at Town Hall and the Spring Hope Police Department.

Rocky Mount resident Justin Howard spoke to the crowd. He encouraged black men to take care of their women and stop killing each other. He said black people had been racially profiled for years, and they were gathered together to fight a virus — the virus of racism.

“We are starting a war with racism,” Howard said. “All lives matter, it’s true. But right now, black lives matter.” 

Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said the peaceful protest was a testament to the Spring Hope community.

Almost 24 hours after airing out their dirty laundry in a June 1 public meeting, Police Chief Nathan Gant and town Commissioner Prudence Wilkins stood united at the protest.

The contention between the pair evident the night before had apparently been resolved. They had sparred about whether a resident with a complaint about the police department should go to Wilkins or to the police chief. They agreed at the protest that residents should discuss their concerns with whomever they feel most comfortable. 

Gant seized the day, telling the crowd that Spring Hope is a united community.

“I’m an open door,” Gant said, adding he had plenty of body camera footage he could show anyone who needed to see it.

Wilkins introduced Officer Lashawn Lucas, the town’s sole black officer, to the crowd.

“You guys wanted diversity,” Wilkins said. “They’re making it happen.”

Wilkins told the crowd that leaders have differences, but they work together.

“There is no division here,” Wilkins said. “Chief Gant wants to hear from you.”

Wilkins said that no matter what anyone might read on Facebook or in the newspaper, Spring Hope is united.

Gant said his attitude hadn’t changed from the day before.

“I have the exact same passion the commissioner has,” Gant said.