By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • A newly formed Facebook group of citizens in Hoke County plans to hold a peaceful protest in downtown Raeford this Friday, the day before a public viewing and private memorial service for George Floyd is set to take place.
The Hoke County Peacekeepers will hold a protest Friday, June 5 in downtown Raeford beginning at 1 p.m.
Le’tour Ardel created the Hoke County Peacekeepers, and is organizing the group along with Jasmine McGilvary and Tyler Howard.
“Hoke County Peacekeepers sprung up from the unfortunate death of George Floyd,” Ardel said.
The response so far has been fast, and large. Ardel launched the Hoke County Peacekeepers Facebook group June 2. The group gathered more than 850 members in just 24 hours.
The group plans to gather on Harris Avenue in the parking lot of the Edinborough shopping center, and then will march up Main Street to Prospect Avenue. Then the group will turn and proceed back to the stage next to the Hoke County Public Library.
Organizers also plan to hold a prayer in front of the Raeford police station. A resident who lives on Harris Avenue reached out to the group offering to allow them to set up an aid station on her property, Ardel said. Others are sharing ideas through social media.
Ardel said he is working to get a public address system set up at the library stage. People will be able to share their thoughts and experiences, with members of local law enforcement present to hear their concerns.
“I want to give people a chance to actually speak and be heard, not yelling while 100 other people are yelling,” Ardel said.
Putting the emphasis on having people’s voices heard is important to this event, the organizer said. He asked that attendees respect others when it’s their turn to speak on the stage.
“I just want everybody to know this is not your normal protest, this is a protest actually to be heard. I want everybody to give respect to the people that are speaking and to the police officers who support us, because as far as I see, I’ve got 100 percent local support from the local PD and the sheriff’s station,” he said.
Ardel spoke with Raeford police Wednesday and was in the process of filling out the paperwork to hold the protest. Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said he planned to walk with the protestors.
People planning to participate in the protest should be prepared for seasonally warm weather. Ardel advised protestors should hydrate beforehand. Additionally, people attending should wear a face covering to the protest due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the first time Ardel has organized a protest, but it’s not the first time he’s participated in one. And he personally experienced police brutality in another county nearly 10 years ago, Ardel said, showing marks on his arms.
“It’s a constant reminder…these marks have been on me since 2011,” he said.
It can be difficult for people to feel like they can speak up about what they’ve experienced, he said. Ardel hopes to turn the Hoke County Peacekeepers group into a permanent part of the Raeford and Hoke County community to help change that.
“I want this organization to be a part of the community…I want people to be able to come to us to get something done. A lot of people are afraid to speak. I want the Hoke County Peacekeepers to be not only a voice for this county and this community, but eventually be the North Carolina Peacekeepers,” he said.
Ardel asked for participants to help make sure the protest remains peaceful.
“I need people to be aware, to help me out. We’ve got to be looking for rioters, people that’s not here to respect what’s going on…you’ve got to realize that there’s a way you do things, and you tearing up the city, it’s not going to prove nothing, it’s just going to make it harder for people like me to try to make change like this,” he said.