Protesters speak out, bring guns, but remain peaceful

Dueling protests downtown remain peaceful

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Police were on heightened alert as protesters flooded Downtown Louisville Saturday.

Clashing points of view did not lead to violence or arrests, according to the Louisville Metro Police Department.

There were concerns Friday after a group called the Three Percenters told police they were coming and were bringing guns.

The group and Occupy ICE, who have been camping out for days, both vowed they didn't want violence and they kept their word.

Divided by Magazine Street, protesters met face-to-face separated by barricades with police on roofs watching it all unfold.

Occupy ICE demonstrators, who want that federal agency to be abolished, have been camped outside of its local building on 7th Street since Monday.

"They are a police force that answers directly to the president," Phil Nippert, who was protesting ICE, said. "They go after whoever the president says. That's a check on their power."

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The group continued to protest federal immigration policies on Saturday.

"We've been here since Monday at six in the morning without a single violent incident," Occupy ICE organizer Jesús Ibáñez said.

Louisville Metro Police hoped that peace would continue as members of a group called the Three Percenters arrived to counter protest.

"ICE doesn't have to go anywhere," One man walking with the group said. "You want the families to be together? Deport them all."

The militia organization held a counter-protest in support of federal immigration policies.

"ICE and Customs, they're doing nothing more than trying to secure our borders, stop the flood of drugs and gang members that are coming from not just Mexico, but from all over the world," Three Percenter Wes Russell said.

At the peak of the protests, the two sides, which both brought guns, chanted back and forth across the barricades.

Police got involved a couple of times, including when the members of the group Honorable Sacred Knights of the Ku Klux Klan showed up, but were yelled at to leave by Three Percenter protesters.

"We support ICE," Jack Hicks, a member of the Honorable Sacred Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, said. "We're here for the same reasons."

A man was also escorted out of the Occupy ICE side of the protest after a confrontation between people there.

Despite these incidents, the primary weapons of the day were words, sometimes on signs, sometimes shouted, but a meeting approached with caution by police turned out to be peaceful after all.

The counter protesting began at around 9:00 a.m. It lasted for about three and a half hours before crowds started to dissipate.

The Louisville Metro Police Department issued the following statement on Facebook following the protests:

The LMPD also issued a series of "next steps," which they said will protect public safety and freedom of speech, the department said in a statement.

"We will continue to balance public safety with free speech, including what constitutes free speech. We have been accommodating to people's right to free speech, but those protesting must also be in compliance with state and local laws," Police Chief Steve Conrad said in a statement.

One of the steps included requiring protesters comply with KRS 525.140, a Kentucky state law that prohibits obstructing a highway or other public passage, such as a sidewalk, the LMPD said. For the protesters to stay in their present location, they would have to create a compliant four foot sidewalk passageway.

The full set of steps can be read here.

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