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In this cropped photo from a protest in the square in Tyler, a police officer is talking to a protester. On Sunday, police said they will observe and talk to people during potential conflicting protests.

A Back the Blue rally has been scheduled to overlap a rally against a Protest Portland rally in Tyler’s downtown square Sunday.

The Protest Portland rally was announced last week to be held from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. On Saturday, a Back the Blue rally was set up from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the same place, encouraging supporters to bring their flags.

The square is Smith County property but the City of Tyler Police Department confirmed they will be monitoring to make sure protesters are safe.

Vince Leibowitz, a general consultant to the Hank Gilbert for Congress committee hosting the Protest Portland rally, said the Back the Blue rally should listen to their message supporting the Constitution.

“If this is a disgusting intimidation tactic on their part, best of luck to them. They don’t understand this protest is not against law enforcement,” said Leibowitz. “This protest has to do with the illegal and unconstitutional actions of the Trump administration sending (rented) minivans and snatching people off the streets. There are some in law enforcement in Tyler who don’t like that.”

Valerie Holcomb, who posted the Back the Blue Rally, explained why they are holding the counter-protest.

“We are a group of friends that decided to show support for law enforcement,” Holcomb said. “We saw that there is a gathering scheduled protesting federal officers in Portland. We merely want law enforcement to know that we do not agree with that sentiment. We further do not agree with the sentiment portrayed by the main stream media to defund the police. We just want law enforcement to know that we believe that they rise to a level of excellence on a daily basis and that we have their back. We are not activists or even protesters. We are just a group of average people showing our support to our law enforcement.”

Leibowitz said they have a permit for the rally and said what is happening in Portland would not happen in Texas.

“Law enforcement in Texas abides by the law and by the rules and we don’t think it’s a great idea for people in camo to come smash people and take them away in mini vans,” said Leibowitz. “If that happens in Texas, you are likely to get your (rear end) shot. You don’t approach people and snag them without identification.”

Tyler Police Department Public Information Officer Andy Erbaugh said Saturday the police department will continue to do what they’ve done through months of protests on the square.

“The Tyler PD has people monitoring protests. We are just there for the protests and those around the area,” Erbaugh said. “If we are there, it’s just a supporting and background role, just like we were the first rallies. A lot of people didn’t see us and when they did, we shook hands and talked to them. If it turns tumultuous, then we will step in.”

Gilbert took out a newspaper ad with images of Allied troops sailing toward Normandy Beach on D-Day, and images of paramilitary forces in Portland. It read, “Our grandfathers stormed the beaches to defeat fascism. Now, our generation must defeat fascists at home.”

Gilbert said his goal is “to bring 1,000 East Texans to the courthouse square to protest the unconstitutional occupation of Portland and stand up for our constitutional rights this Sunday. We must stand up for our rights, and not let Democracy die at the hands of a totalitarian government.”

Leibowitz asked if the Back the Blue Rally had a permit and said they will practice social distancing.

“We are going to social distance and we hope no one tries to approach people who come to Hank’s event and get in their face,” said Leibowitz. “People are tired and ready to stand up for the Constitution and those against the Constitution. I challenge them to listen to what Hank says. We may come together to be against a common enemy. We are all on the same side. This has nothing to do with disrespecting law enforcement or he police. People who support Blue Lives Matter want to support the Constitution and when they hear what this is about, we could join arm-in-arm for the same battle.”

 
 

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John is a two-time national columnist of the year and AP award-winner in Texas and New York for breaking news, videos and sports. He earned the Thomas J. Bulson Investigative Journalism award and has appeared on CNBC's American Greed, FOX and CNN.