NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Tensions are rising in New Port Richey as Black Lives Matter protesters and counterprotesters continue to hold demonstrations throughout the city.
Organizers are holding these protests periodically throughout the week, and the Pasco County Black Lives Matter group typically holds one large organized protest on Fridays, but they postponed this week’s protest due to weather.
However, they say they’ll be back at New Port Richey City Hall on Saturday.
The protests in New Port Richey have been mostly peaceful over the last several months.
“There has been no violence, no burning, no looting or anything like that,” said Marlowe Jones, a Pasco County Black Lives Matter activist.
That is, up until the last few weeks, as more and more counterprotesters started joining the Black Lives Matter group at the city hall.
“It just keeps rising until someone finally starts to lose their temper,” said Chief Kim Bogart with the New Port Richey Police Department.
So far, Chief Bogart says the police department has kept violence out, but the threats are rolling in from protesters on social media.
“These hate groups coming out and sending us messages, talking about spraying us up, running us over,” said Jones.
“In some instances, the blue lives matter and the 'Trumpsters,' and at least one or two of the motorcycle groups, have been even more antagonistic to the other side, but I can’t say the other side is innocent,” said Chief Bogart.
Last weekend, the police department handed out several amplified sound citations and a trespassing ticket to Black Lives Matter activists. Chief Bogart says they gave protesters several warnings before handing out those citations. He says they also cited a counterprotester for covering his license tag, and the police department turned a video over to the State Attorney’s Office, which Chief Bogart says showed a counterprotester displaying a gun.
Chief Bogart says the police department did not arrest this counterprotester because officers were not there to witness it.
“We didn’t invite this into our city. We didn’t have any of these issues, none of these issues, until these protests began, and then it acted like a magnet and drew in the people that are against that,” said Chief Bogart.
Marlowe Jones says they’re just looking for transparency and change.
“It’s not just the body cams, it’s also social programs. The west side of New Port Richey is suffering. The homeless situation is out of control. People need help,” said Jones.
Chief Bogart says he put in an order for body cams, and due to current high demand, they are on backorder, but his department currently has seven body cams. This is something he says he has been working on getting his police department outfitted with for more than a year.
The City of New Port Richey is currently planning a work session with Black Lives Matter leaders, so they can have an open discussion.