By Jay Mejia
Special News Correspondent
Two steel rails of a handicap ramp outside the Dixie Outfitters store on Father’s Day became battleground central for race relations between blacks and whites in Branson, and America at large.
On a Sunday marked to honor men who raise families, tensions boiled. Demonstrators stood on both sides of the steel rail barriers taunting counter demonstrators.
A video captured a woman, Kathy Jenkins of Branson, spewing hateful words and invoking the Ku Klux Klan. The video has since gone viral on social media, painting Branson, a tourist mecca, as a racist town,
Jenkins’ Facebook page is still up. She’s been receiving dozens of hate posts from across the country. Apparently her daughter tried to apologize, saying their mistake was saying anything in front of a camera.
“Although occasionally emotions were raised, demonstrators were cooperative with Branson Police in efforts to maintain a peaceful event,” a City of Branson spokesperson for the police department said. “There were no arrests made during the demonstration.”
On the sidewalks and grassy slope overlooking the store in the 1800 block of W. 76 Country Blvd. about 100 demonstrators made a cry of protest for Black Lives Matter, chanting slogans, banging drums and using bullhorns to argue loudly for social justice.
“It’s time for change,” said Charlie Bahn of Aurora. “I am a white person who supports Black Lives Matter.”
Protesters, one who declined to be identified, said they came to Branson to protest against the appearance of the Confederate flag and sales of its likeness on other items.
“To us, even though I’m white,” the supporter said, “seeing the Confederate flag is like seeking a flag with a swastikas on it.”
In the parking lot below the store, a smaller but sizable group of counter demonstrators gathered about the parking draped in the Confederate flag and listening to “Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, or alternating country and Western or Southern rock. Others stayed in their cars or trucks festooned with Confederate stars and bars.
“It’s not about Black Lives Matters,” one protester said. “All lives matter.”
If there is any chance for a path to peace to be remotely possible, one glimmer of hope showed through.
A southern woman came over from the Dixie side and crossed the barrier to greet the Black Lives Matter demonstrators.
Her message was clear and simple: “Hello and Happy Father’s Day.”
Mayor’s Proclamation promoting unity and condemning hate speech
The Mayor’s proclamation acknowledges the right of the people to freedom of speech, press and assembly as guaranteed by the First Amendment, and by the Missouri Constitution, and that hate speech in certain contexts may be constitutionally protected, it does not reflect the Branson community as a whole.
The proclamation continues: “Whereas, the people of Branson are welcoming, open and neighborly citizens and have a strong moral background with servants’ hearts and a spirit of hospitality; Now therefore, I, E. Edd Akers, Mayor of the City of Branson, Missouri hereby proclaim that we are committed to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all citizens and visitors to our community who have a love for the Ozarks and for the things that make Branson and our community unique.”