Members of the Bradley Constitutionalists met at the Bradley County Courthouse Wednesday to discuss how to prepare to protect their families and homes if mob violence similar to what has occurred in other cities over the death of George Floyd breaks out locally.
The meeting was held in the Bradley County Commission’s chambers.
Dan Rawls, a former Bradley County commissioner and community activist, who was the speaker at the gathering, said anyone coming to Cleveland to cause trouble should go elsewhere.
“This place could be dangerous to you in a lot of ways,” he said. ”We’re not going out to seek trouble, but we're also not going to allow trouble to come into our midst.”
Rawls said those leading the protests, which have gripped several cities across the nation, are insurrectionists.
In several cities, some protesters have looted and burned buildings.
“This is an insurrection,” he said of the violent protests. “This is a communist insurrection. If you believe anything else, I believe that you are naive.”
He compared the protesters' tactics to those used during the Bolshevik Revolution, as well as other communist uprisings.
“These communists are your enemies,” he said. “They would kill you, your wife and there’s no telling what they would do to your kids. They would kill or poison your dog. If you don't believe that, you're living in a fairy tale.”
He said those who want to protect their community should be organized and prepared.
“I told my neighbors, if you see guys out here in a car at nine o'clock, and they're riding up and down this road, then what are you doing? If you don't want to go out there, you call me. I'll go out there and ask, “What are you doing here? I'll pull my truck over the road,” he said. [They] won't get out. We'll call the sheriff.”
He said neighbors should communicate a plan to be organized if troublemakers enter their communities to cause harm.
“You need to have a plan,” he said. “I'm not talking about a military-attack plan, I'm talking about if this happens, let's do this. If you see somebody you don't recognize, you call me.”
While the group agreed the killing of George Floyd was wrong, they said anger that has resulted in mob violence is not acceptable.
“Mob violence is extremely hard to predict and extremely hard to control,” Rawls said. “So, the best thing to do is to divert it, put it somewhere else.”
He said he has lived in Cleveland for 30 years and has no intention of going anywhere else to live.
“I'm not going to run away from this," he said.
Rawls took issue with the those who are protesting at the Confederate monument in Cleveland.
“A large amount of the people that have been at this protest are not from here,” he said, adding that he has tracked their movements.
“I went to their car. I followed them. I took their tag numbers … I got pictures of them,” he said. “I followed three: all three were from outside Bradley County.”
While Rawls said he has also participated in protests, he has never worn a mask.
“I have never associated with a group that was threatening violence or talked about burning things down,” he said. “These people are mentally ill, or they’re just sadly misinformed.”
He said the protesters have a difficult time expressing their views and rely on talking points.
“Once you get through that little meme mentality, there's nothing there. They’ve got a talking point and once you get past that talking point, it’s over," he said. "They don't even know the subject matter, they just revert right back to the talking point.”
One meeting attendee said he was going to take care of his personal property, his family and himself.
“This is the greatest nation in the world, and we are losing because of young people, thugs and people that don't have enough [expletive deleted] to stand up for what is right,” he said. “You write that down in the paper."
Another man said everyone needed to be prepared for violence if it occurs.
“I don't want to be one of those guys that’s flipping out, but I think we need to be prepared if it comes to that,” he said.
Rawls said that while more people need to be involved in protecting the city from violence, their roles need not be as counter-protesters.
“You can send emails,” he said. "Can you disseminate information to people within a group? Can you hand out bottles of water? Can you write notes? Can you send messages and information to the House, Senate and your president?”
He said communication, intelligence and observation are key to organizing and resisting threats.
“Without that logistical ability to move forward, you're not going very far,” he said. “You need to know your enemy, and make no bones about it, these communists are your enemies.”