A Black Lives Matter march on Ocracoke on June 28 had about 150 participants who walked down Irvin Garrish Highway from Howard’s Pub to Community Square where they heard some speakers and music. Photo: C. Leinbach

Captain Jason Daniels wants everyone to know that the Hyde County Sheriff deputies on Ocracoke are peacekeepers first.

And the Black Lives Matter march at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 28, turned out to be everything he had hoped it would be—citizens exercising their right to peaceably assemble and exercise their right to give their opinions.

Organized by several young people on the island, about 100 people, many of them visitors, walked in silence from the north end of the village to Community Square where they heard a few speakers and some music to show solidarity with protesters around the nation urging inclusion for people of color.  Despite some advances in recent decades, people of color still face egregious discrimination nationwide.

Hyde County Sheriff Guire Cahoon, Daniels, and with his deputies watched the rally from across the street.

Before the march began, Melanie Turner, one of the organizers, said the marchers would not chant unless counter protesters began something.

At Community Square, one man began yelling, “All lives matter,” after which, the marchers responded, “Black lives matter!”

Then the instigator and another man got in each other’s faces for a few seconds until someone calmed the situation down before anything escalated.

Daniels said that yelling is normal at any protest.

He did talk to the instigator and the man related that he had just wanted his voice to be heard, which is his right.

“He did not do anything to break the law,” Daniels said about the incident. “If anything got physical, that’s why we were there.”

The deputies preceded and followed the marchers in their cars.

“It’s our job to let them have their walk,” Daniels said, noting that any such march requires a permit. And next week, if a group with an opposing view wants to walk, that’s their right.

He stressed that he wants to keep peace among all on Ocracoke—visitors and residents no matter their color or persuasion.

The island is a small community and many, if not most, know the island’s law enforcement officers. As a result, they are able to diffuse situations that have the potential of getting out  of control.

“It’s our last resort to use force here,” he said. “We have very little use of force here.”

Daniels is part of the community and is a talented artist, having been an industrial arts teacher before he became a sheriff deputy. His carvings grace many homes and businesses and he has a thriving sign-making business.

He and his family have lived here for 18 years, and the other deputies live and play here, too.

As police everywhere are under scrutiny, Daniels does not want the island force painted with a brutal brush.

We would love to see everyone take all the nasty talk, particularly on social media, down a notch, or several notches.

George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks[PV1] , Breonna Taylor and others were by no means the only victims.

In 1991, Rodney King was brutally beaten by police officers of the Los Angeles Police Department after fleeing a high-speed chase. The incident was captured on film gaining world-wide attention and four officers were indicted. When the officers were acquitted the following year, a six-day riot in South Los Angeles ensued.

Calling for calm, halfway through, King said, “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along?”

Violent responses only add to the fire. Peaceful protests accomplish a lot more towards reconciliation.

Gary Mitchell with Molasses Creek, hit the right tone at the rally performing his song “Can we all agree on love?”

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