Two Black Lives Matter marches are slated for the Park Cities Saturday afternoon and evening. The cops are ready. Some of the neighbors are, too.
Russell Fish, an electronics inventor known for his conservative advocacy on school issues, has been telling me for some time of his involvement in a neighborhood militia in his University Park neighborhood. Fish lives three-quarters of a mile from where the two marches are to convene at Mockingbird Lane and Bush Avenue. I have met with a few of Fish’s group before. In fact, we have gone shooting together. I get around.
“Absolutely 100 percent of the community, at least on these four streets that are around me,” Fish said, “are not going to have rioters coming to these streets, mostly peaceful or not. … Anything that looks like guys in black and this stuff, helmets and shields and stuff like that, you’re not coming in the community.”
University Park and Highland Park are affluent, adjacent small municipalities surrounded by Dallas. Officials and police in both communities told me they know the marches are planned and have mapped out a coordinated response between themselves and the Dallas Police Department.
Lieutenant Lance Koppa of the Highland Park Department of Public Safety said, “We are coordinating with our law enforcement partners who will be present, as we would do for any event like this. We will have additional staffing there on Saturday.”
Steve Mace, director of communications for University Park, said, “The city is aware. Our police and fire departments, along with SMU and Highland Park Public Safety, have been engaged with organizers over the last week or so in conjunction with the two planned marches scheduled to take place on the SMU campus on Saturday.
“One was organized by SMU students and is set to take place about 3 p.m.,” Mace said. “The second march was organized by In Solidarity DFW and is tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. that same afternoon.
“In both cases, organizers have been instructed to keep participants on the sidewalks and to walk in an orderly fashion.”
Fish’s alarm comes from watching footage at BLM protests in Portland, Oregon, and Kenosha, Wisconsin. He says the most pressing concern for him and his neighbors is fire.
“As you know, just about every place that rioters have gone where they set that stuff on fire, they also blocked the fire engines. They either blocked them or they started shooting at the firefighters and the firefighters withdrew,” he said. “We have confirmed with our own fire department that that is a very real possibility. We are trying to prepare some sort of a backup.”
I was unable to find a report of protesters shooting at firefighters in this country in the last year.
Fish told me he has been closely monitoring protests all over the country and has discerned an uptick in the presence of guns at protests in the last two months. He seems to be right about that. He suggested his neighbors do not intend to be out-gunned.
“I do not want to end up with a gun battle on Hillcrest, anything like what they had in Kenosha,” Fish says. “I think that is a very, very bad idea. I think we should do everything possible to prevent that.”
I interjected, “But not everyone agrees?”
“There’s been some discussion,” he said. He declined to speak about it in greater detail.
In talking about what he anticipates Saturday, Fish uses language closely paralleling the recent words of President Donald Trump. Trump told an interviewer this week: “We had somebody get on a plane from a certain city this weekend, and in the plane it was almost completely loaded with thugs wearing these dark uniforms, black uniforms with gear and this and that.”
Fish says that’s what he will be looking for Saturday in the two planned marches — thugs, mostly White, wearing all black clothing and carrying backpacks, bear spray, and other “gear.”
“In a matter of five minutes, I can figure out probably how this turns out,” he said. “I just look around. How are they dressed? Do they have backpacks? Are they in the blackout, the all-black?”
On a more personal note (Fish and I have known each other for more than 20 years), he said: “These are essentially all Bolsheviks, the kind of people you grew up with.”
I grew up around boring middle-westerners, but, hey. Some of them were in the UAW.
Tyne Dickson, an SMU senior speaking for [email protected], a student organization sponsoring the earlier march, expressed shock that anyone would anticipate violence from her group. “We are SMU students,” she said, “and we would never put anyone else in harm’s way intentionally.”
I asked Eric Ramsey of In Solidarity DFW, sponsoring the later march, for his reaction to fears of fires and shooting Saturday. He said in an emailed reply: “That is absolutely absurd. We will not be starting fires, looting, fighting with anyone, threatening anyone, or anything of that nature. We will also be leaving our own guns at home.
“The point of us marching through HP is to get the BLM message out there to a White-centric neighborhood that has been protected by its abounding privilege.
“This response is insulting. We’ve been nothing but peaceful. The ones who have incited violence are police forces and right-wing militias, not us.”
Two weeks ago, the activist group the Next Generation Action Network marched in front of the Highland Park home of Fred Perpall, CEO of The Beck Group, a billion-dollar Dallas-based construction company. Perpall, who is Black, is chairman of the Dallas Citizens Council, a private business leadership organization.
Dominique Alexander, head of Next Generation, told me his group is targeting influential Black leaders, including Perpall, Dallas Regional Chamber President John Olajide, and Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, saying the protest movement should have targeted them “long ago.”
Alexander was offended by a recent story in the Dallas Morning News pointing out that Perpall and Olajide, heads of the city’s two most prestigious business leadership groups, are both Black.
“These guys have sat comfortable in controlling the fabric of our city — people that nobody from Dallas even freakin’ knows,” Alexander said, “but these guys are the Black people to know.”
There were no law enforcement incidents during the march in front of Perpall’s home. I wasn’t there. But Fish later described the demonstration in front of Perpall’s house to me as “a riot.”
I spoke to Perpall. He said, “Look, you know what I would describe this as? These were like the cheerleaders at South Oak Cliff [High School] or the church people. This is like the Black church people.”
“These were good people,” he said. “These aren’t thugs and goons and all that. These are people that believe deeply that the broader Dallas owes Black Dallas more resources and more investment. And they are right.”