North Main Street in front of the Lamar County Courthouse will be shut down this evening for tonight's planned protest, Police Chief Bob Hundley said.
City Manager Grayson Path said the closure, from Pine Bluff Street to Lamar Avenue, comes at the request of protest organizers, who are expecting a larger turnout mainly because this event has been advertised longer than previous protests in the Paris plaza.
The protest is set to begin at 6 p.m. at the Lamar County Courthouse.
Peaceful protests have been taking place in downtown Paris since the death of native Texan George Floyd, a black man, under the knee of Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer. Protesters have carried signs, prayed, chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "No justice, no peace" in solidarity with a national movement to increase awareness of systemic racism and police brutality.
The last protest included a march to the Confederate monument on Lamar County Courthouse property and a reading of Texas's Declaration of Causes during the Civil War. Afterwards, an online petition was started to show support for moving the monument to another property in Paris. A competing petition to keep the monument in its place also was started.
Internet rumors have sprung up warning of the "strong possibility that demonstration is going to be held" and that "several bus loads of protestors are being brought into Paris for demonstration." Rumors have also suggested a "staffing up" of the fire department and EMS crews.
Path said there is no change in fire department operations, but Paris EMS is preparing for the protest in the same manner it prepares for any event of size in the city — it will have a crew to handle normal operations and one available, if needed, for the event. It's important that Paris EMS be able to carry out normal operations while also being available for an outdoor event, especially given the heat, Path said.
Hundley is also aware of the rumors. He and Path say they've been assured tonight's protest will remain peaceful.
"We do have additional officers coming in, but not all officers are being called in," the chief said.