NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Racial tensions are high in New Port Richey, and city leaders are concerned that things may turn violent.
According to City Manager Debbie Manns and Mayor Rob Marlowe, tensions started back in June.
Black Lives Matter Pasco started organizing protests and marches following the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“The Black Lives Matter people ratcheted up the volume. It attracted some of the people from the other extreme of the spectrum," he said.
But the mayor said he does not put all of the blame on BLM. He said both groups are increasing the racial tension in the city.
According to city leaders, some of the BLM protesters are shouting and cursing at cops. Some homeowners have expressed concerns about BLM.
The city said there are reports that people on both sides are arming themselves with weapons, like bats and guns.
“That’s my concern,” said Mayor Marlowe. “That does not belong in New Port Richey.”
The other concern is the use of megaphones. According to the city, noise megaphones are banned or must be turned down to a specific level after a specific time.
BLM organizers say they’re not the ones causing the issues, and they believe the city is trying to use the noise ordinance to silence them.
“As said to the chief of police, there’s been no burning, there’s been no stealing, there’s been no looting in New Port Richey,“ said a BLM organizer.
The mayor and city manager said during an interview they are not trying to silence the protesters, but there are rules everyone must follow.
“They’ve been shouting obscenities as they’re marching. That’s not what we want here in New Port Richey,” Mayor Marlowe said. “That sort of behavior does nothing to endear the Black Lives Matter cause with the general public.”
Manns said she is in talks with William Dumas, a member of Citizens Against discrimination and Racial Injustice, and they are working to set up a meeting.
Dumas said he has sent her a list of things BLM would like to see addressed, such as body cameras for all police officers and starting a citizen's review board.
Manns said body cameras are in the budget and City Council will vote on the budget at their next meeting.
The City Council is also planning a work session with BLM and members of the community to have an “open discussion.”
“I don’t want violence, no one does,” said Marlow.