Despite protesters outnumbering counter-protesters, two of three arrested were counter-protesters

Sheriff Rick Wells speaks to commission about Confederate monument protests

Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells called Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac during a regular meeting Tuesday after hearing there were six planned protests in the coming week regarding the Confederate statue.
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Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells called Commission Chairwoman Betsy Benac during a regular meeting Tuesday after hearing there were six planned protests in the coming week regarding the Confederate statue.

While protesters outnumbered counter-protesters at demonstrations surrounding the Confederate monument in Bradenton on Monday evening, two of the three men arrested were counter-protesters.

Hundreds gathered outside the Manatee County Historic Courthouse near the monument for more than two hours. Tensions flared and emotions were high without violence erupting.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, with the aid of the Bradenton Police Department, had a strong presence throughout the crowds ensuring the demonstrations stayed peaceful and no laws were broken.

Deputies did make three arrests:

▪  William Garrett “Gary” Snow, 40, of Jacksonville, charged with affray, which is defined as inciting a riot.

▪  Daron Christian Edward-Hays, 20, of Sarasota, was charged with battery.

▪  Cory Robinson, 43, of Bradenton, was charged with affray.

The large presence of law enforcement included the sheriff’s office Special Response Team, deputies and Bradenton police officers both in uniform and undercover, snipers on roof tops, a helicopter and the entire command staff including Sheriff Rick Wells and second in command Col. Dwayne Denison. Wells and Denison remained close to the center of the demonstrations throughout the evening.

The cost to the sheriff’s office was estimated between $20,000 and $30,000 due to the substantial overtime required, Wells said Tuesday during a county commission meeting.

“Our job is to make sure that those who want to express themselves have that ability,” Wells said.

Led by organizers from Black Lives Matter Alliance Sarasota Manatee Chapter, Indivisible Bradenton Pro-gressive and Answer Suncoast, most protesters gathered at the South Florida Museum and marched to the Manatee County Historic Courthouse.

William Snow

Before those who were marching arrived, there was a fairly equal number of protesters and counter-protesters. Several shouting matches erupted between both sides.

Snow got into one protester’s face, pointing his finger at him and calling him a “domestic terrorist.” Later, the self-proclaimed Yankee originally from Chicago told another protester that he did acknowledge the social injustice.

“I do acknowledge it, just like the Jews acknowledge Auschwitz and give tours to people in Auschwitz to the kilns where millions of Jews were burned. They give tours because we don’t want to repeat the history,” Snow shouted.

Snow continued to shout over the protester.

“You’re offended. You’re the minority that is offended,” Snow shouted while holding an American flag. “No, it doesn’t need to go ... It’s free speech; if you don’t like it, walk away.”

Later after the marchers arrived, Snow stood in the middle of the crowd waving the flag around. He continued to shout at the protesters and at one point grabbed a sign, tearing it up. He then continued to wave his flag around, striking other signs in what appeared to be an intentional act.

“Fearing that Snow would cause harm to nearby persons and the fact that he was in a confined space among multiple protesters, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team took Snow into custody,” an arrest report stated.

Snow was taken into custody as the crowd of protesters cheered. They then began to chant, “This is what democracy looks like.”

He smiled, however, as the Special Response Team, dressed in riot gear, escorted him away. Snow is no stranger to controversy and has gained national notoriety following his presence at other protests, where he has been known to agitate crowds.

He was released from the Manatee County jail Tuesday on a $500 bond.

Daron Edward-Hays

Edward-Hays was arrested after charging at a group of protesters in an aggressive manner while holding a flag on a 7-foot pole, according to an arrest report. At some point someone tore the flag off the pole.

According to the arrest report, “The defendant became agitated and began to scream at the crowd. The defendant then charged the crowd while waving the pole, causing the crowd to back up.”

Deputies feared that Edward-Hays would hurt someone since he was in a tight crowd, so he was taken into custody.

The report continued, “Post arrest, the defendant’s backpack was removed and upon search incident to arrest, it was discovered that the backpack contained a standard hammer, two plastic bottles containing rotten milk, a glass jar containing an unknown liquid.”

Edward-Hays was wearing body armor, deputies say.

He was released from the Manatee County jail Tuesday on a $500 bond.

Cory Robinson

Toward the end of the evening, as protesters continued to chant or sing together, Robinson made his way into the middle of the group gathered at the gazebo. He stood shirtless in an aggressive stance staring at one organizer as she spoke into a megaphone.

She told Robinson over the megaphone that he was not going to intimidate her. Others stood in front of him, as deputies came closer to Edward-Hays.

Robinson pushed another man, “via a chest bump in an attempt to start an affray,” according to an arrest report. Deputies escorted him away into the judicial center where he was arrested.

He is being held at the Manatee County jail as of Tuesday night on a $500 bond.

Jessica De Leon: 941-745-7049, @JDeLeon1012