The July 18 march in Maggie Valley had managed to catch some Saturday afternoon rain, though it was less of a portent and more of an annoyance, I would imagine. I wouldn’t know, I was sitting at home, watching the protest on Facebook live via Smoky Mountain News.
A camouflaged man yells at the protestors as they march by the Maggie Valley Biker Wear sign, waving his fingers at them aggressively, saying “US Military, that’s what keeps you safe.” Protestors look at each other, confused. They weren’t there protesting the military.
In the age of COVID, attending a protest is something of an extreme sport – made even more extreme by the constant threat of police brutality which, despite a number of protests across Sylva, Bryson, and now Maggie, had yet to generate the level of state-sanctioned violence as seen in Asheville.
It wasn’t rubber bullets and tear gas that the protestors would be ducking this day, but the insults, threats of violence, and literal spit from both local and tourist, as Maggie Valley swelled from motorcycled vigilantes and angry locals who had packed out motels and lined the fronts of businesses.
They claimed it was to prevent property damage, but accusing protestors of being a threat of property damage is not only a racist dogwhistle, it’s a spit in the face of the American values so-called patriots claim to cherish. Jacked up trucks drive by in an attempt to intimidate those whose speech they don’t agree with. When that fails, they shout threats and racisms out their windows.
The march eventually wound up at the town hall and a tense standoff began as the protestors stood outnumbered against a mob of confederate flags and “all lives matter” signs spread among the trucks that had been menacing the protestors earlier.
Equally outnumbered were the cops sprinkled across the line, standing in quiet vigilance of the numerous matches approaching the powder keg.
A member of Communities for Change admitted that it “got pretty intense, especially given that it was our first time being put in that kinda situation.”
Now, two weeks after the first Maggie Valley protests, demonstrations return Aug. 1.
“We’ve had many members of the community voice their support and also offer property as a place to regroup or whatever we need. We feel like we’re definitely ready.”
The Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen, on July 30, called a special board meeting to adopt Ordinance 926 which places several restrictions on future protests.
First, is a requirement that groups notify the Chief of Police 72 hours prior to a demonstration. This requirement has been waived for Saturday’s protest.
Other notable changes include a 25ft buffer between opposing groups, marching being limited to the sidewalk and marchers not allowed to stop and block foot traffic, and no one may issue “fighting words” to protestors.
Any violation of this ordinance may be punishable by up to a $200 fine or twenty days in jail.
To read the full text of the ordinance, visit https://maggievalleync.gov/town-news/aldermen-special-called-meeting-thursday-july-30/
Communities for Change was optimistic about these changes. “The town is trying to help and do what they can to support our rights and safety, and also have some framework for the future. There’s a lot of things to be cautious about and hopefully we’ve approached those topics the best we can to avoid interaction and get our point across peacefully.”
For more information on the July 18 protest, check out the very excellent article by Kyle Perrotti for The Mountaineer: “Ideologies clash at Maggie Valley protest” which covers the story in depth and might just be the best piece of literary nonfiction to come out of the western NC region this year.
The Aug. 1 protest begins Saturday at 2pm. The event will meet at the Town Hall Park then march and return. Attendees are asked by organizers to not engage with counter-protestors.