Sonia Marquez, at center holding a megaphone, encourages racial justice protesters on Saturday, June 6, 2020, at Main Street and Sixth Avenue in Longmont. Marquez’s niece, Jordyn, 11, right, and Marquez’s  son, Leo, 5, joined her at the protest. (Kelsey Hammon / Staff Writer)
Sonia Marquez, at center holding a megaphone, encourages racial justice protesters on Saturday, June 6, 2020, at Main Street and Sixth Avenue in Longmont. Marquez’s niece, Jordyn, 11, right, and Marquez’s son, Leo, 5, joined her at the protest. (Kelsey Hammon / Staff Writer)
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People gathering to demonstrate their positions at a downtown Longmont intersection will soon get a measure of protection from the possibility of drivers who violently object to the protesters’ causes.

As early as next week, the Longmont Downtown Development Authority plans to install two or three 500-pound concrete planters at the eastern entry to Longmont’s Sixth Avenue Plaza.

The planters will be on the sidewalk on the west side of Main Street where it intersects with Sixth Avenue. That’s a frequent venue for public rallies and demonstrations.

That will provide barriers that could prevent an irate southbound motorist from jumping a vehicle over the curb and plowing into a crowd of demonstrators, according to Longmont City Councilwoman Marcia Martin.

And while that’s never known to have happened in Longmont, there have been reports of such incidents elsewhere in the country during the weeks that followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis, an incident that sparked rallies, vigils and marches throughout the country by people protesting police brutality and racial bias.

Concern that it could happen here, however, had been expressed by some longtime participants in Longmont Leads with Love’s years of weekly gatherings at Sixth and Main to promote peace and progressive policies, according to Kathy Partridge, a member of that organization.

“We have not had any incidents,” Partridge said Wednesday, but she said she had contacted Martin about members’ fears. However, Longmont police on June 3 arrested a man who swung a hatchet at Black Lives Matter protesters, who may not have been affiliated with Longmont Leads with Love, gathered at Sixth and Main after telling them “All lives matter.” No one was injured.

Martin noted Wednesday that “there are a lot of people at different times gathering there now,” on top of the weekly Saturday rallies that Longmont Leads with Love has held for years.

Martin said she’d contacted Longmont Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Kimberlee McKee about the possibility of installing planters in the area where demonstrators — which recently have included other groups in addition to Longmont Leads with Love members — typically congregate to display signs and share those groups’ policy positions with passing motorists and pedestrians passing through the intersection.

Martin, the City Council liaison to the Downtown Development Authority board, said in a June 10 email to McKee that she was asking about planters because “as you know, there are big demonstrations there now.”

Martin wrote McKee that the reason activists want to know about the possibility of moving or adding planters there “is because opponents of the current movement have driven into crowds, and they’re afraid that Longmont’s secure and naive people could be hurt if somebody does a copycat attempt here.”

Martin told her fellow Council members Tuesday night: “I don’t know if in Longmont, those fears” of a motorist driving into protesters “are going to be realized.” But she applauded the Downtown Development Authority for agreeing to install the large, heavy planters to protect demonstrators standing or sitting at Sixth and Main.

“The traffic is very slow,” usually, Partridge said Wednesday. “We get the occasional catcall or raised middle finger.”

She said while “we’re not expecting trouble,” the planters would put things into “a preventative mode.”

Partridge said the planters also could prevent accidents that might cause injuries to people standing or walking on the sidewalk if a southbound motorist loses control of a vehicle, jumps the curb and runs into those people.

Installing the planters provides “a happy civic solution” to preventing such injuries from accidents as well as putting barriers between demonstrators and any motorists who might try to deliberately drive into them, she said.

McKee said Wednesday that the planters the Downtown Development Authority already has in place at various other locations and the ones to be installed at Sixth and Main have a role in downtown beautification as well as being what she called “traffic calming devices.”

The Downtown Development Authority emphasizes safety and “making sure we keep all of our residents safe,” McKee said.

The newly located planters will be south of the east side of Village Place Apartments, whose manager could not be immediately be reached for comment Wednesday night.

Emma Izquierdo, a member of the Longmont Collective, which held a rally at Sixth and Main on June 5 in alliance with the issues being raised nationally by the Black Lives Matter movement, said she was comforted by the idea that the city is taking action “to protect people’s rights to protest there.”