‘Branson is moving the needle’: Black Lives Matter takes to Dixie Outfitters – News-Leader

Posted By on June 24, 2020

Dozens attended a demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter in Branson Sunday. Several also attended in counter-protest. Springfield News-Leader

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct last name of a woman who spoke to reporters and was caught on video.

More than 100 people took to the sidewalks and parking lot in front of Dixie Outfitters in Branson on Sunday evening. Morethan 65 were there to showsupport for the Black Lives Mattermovement and to protest the store. Nearly 50 people came to support the store and the Confederate flag.

At timesheated shouting matches broke out, but Branson police officers stood between the two groups and the demonstrations ended peacefully around 7:30 p.m.

Similar protests against police brutality and racismhave been happeningacross the nation following thekilling of George Floyd while he was in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.

This was the second Black Lives Matterprotest to be held near Dixie Outfitters.

Organizers said they chose to protest near the store after reading a 2015 News-Leader story about the store owners' history with the Ku Klux Klan.

The Black Lives Matterdemonstrators chanted and used a megaphone to talk about racism in America. The anti-demonstrators in the store's parking lotused a loudspeaker to play Southern-themed music like "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Song of the South."

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When the anti-demonstrators played the Star Spangled Banner and Amazing Grace, the Black Lives Matterdemonstrators took a knee.

"We need to show the cowards and the complacent that justice matters," said a woman named Audrea, who declined to give her last name. "If we stay at home and say it to ourselves, nothing is going to change."

Dixie Outfitters is located on Branson's busy strip at 1819 W. 76 Country Blvd.

Throughout the rally, which began around 4 p.m., countless motorists drove by and showed support for one side or the other. Many shouted, "all lives matter" and waved Confederate flags. Others waved homemade Black Lives Matter signs and shouted support for the protesters. Even more drove by shooting video with their cell phones.

"It's disgusting," protester Jessi Lorenz, said of the store. "I've been in there once when I was 16, and I hated it."

"We are not that," she said, motioning tothe counter-demonstrators in the store's parking lot. "We are not them. We are about love. We care, and we love everybody."

Jessi Lorenz's mother, Terri Lorenz, was nearby and carried a homemade Black Lives Matter sign.

Terri Lorenz said she was there to protest "against police brutality and against the Klan."

Dawnsha'maine Rowley stood with the Black Lives Matterdemonstrators alongside her two young boys and husband. The Black woman held high a sign that read "Black lives matter, Black children matter, Black mental health matters, Black dreams matter, Black futures matter." The other side of her sign read, "The color of skin is not a weapon."

Rowley said she's lived in Branson for 21 years. She and her husband, who is white, own a sports bar and mini golf venue in Branson.

The Rowleys live not far from the Dixie Outfitters store, which sells Confederate flag memorabilia and has been located on Branson's strip since 2007.

In her view, the store is "an eye sore."

"I got numb to it," she said. "I don't let it affect me."

Rowley said she's never had any trouble with local law enforcement but she's experienced racism in herrestaurant by people who apparently didn't realize she was the owner.

Once an older couple remarked, "They are letting the monkeys work today," Rowley recalled.

More: Hundreds protest death of George Floyd at Battlefield and Glenstone

Rowley said she doesn't want to be sad about it, but feels it's important to educate her kids about racism in America.

"Branson is moving the needle," Rowley said. "I commend every single person that is out here trying to fight for change.

"It's beautiful," she said, holding her hand to her heart. "I never thought I would see this."

Kathy Jenkins cloaks herself in a Confederate flag outside of Dixie Outfitters in Branson Sunday, June 21, 2020.(Photo: SARA KARNES/NEWS-LEADER)

Across the street, a man who declined to give his name said he and the others in the store's parking lot were there to "protect the store."

"It's been here for years, and there havebeen threats made," the man said. "As you can see we are all here peacefully."

A few feet away, a woman namedKathy Jenkins, who previously told reporters her last name was Bennett, saton the tailgate of a truck with a Confederate flag attached and wore a camouflage Make America Great Again cap. Jenkins said she's lived in Branson for six years and was there because, "it's not just Black lives matter."

Viral video: Videofrom BLM protest in Branson shows woman honoring KKK

"It's about white lives matter. Cops lives matter," she said. "Our officers are being f***ing beaten and killed, and they are not being recognized at all."

When the Black Lives Matterdemonstrators chanted, "Black lives matter," Jenkins shouted back, "Cops lives matter."

When demonstrators chanted, "Ban the Klan," Jenkins shook her head.

A few minutes later during aconfrontation with a Black Lives Matterdemonstrator, Jenkins stood up in back of the truck and shouted, "I will teach my grandkids to hate you all."

With that, Jenkins said, "suck on this"and shrouded herself with a Confederate flag. She then turned around, made a fist and said, "KKK belief."

The moment was caught on video and has since been shared more than 3,000 times on Facebook.

The story continues below.

Around 6:15 p.m., a man emerged from the store to hand out free Confederate flags. Many used the flags as cloaks.

The group in the parking lot then held a short "prayer circle" as Amazing Grace began to play.

Someone from the Black Lives Matterprotest asked, "How can you play that song without Jesus in your heart?"

'We made history':Thousands gather downtown for Black Lives Matter protest

A message left for store owner Anna Robb on Friday has not yet been returned.

In 2015, Anna Robb told the News-Leader that she had attended KKK events in the past, but that was "years ago." Her husband Nathan, co-owner of the store, once tried to adopt a highway in Arkansas on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan, and that Nathan Robbs father is Thomas Robb, the national director of the KKK.

Anna Robbdenied that she or her husband were ever a part of the KKK, but did say she had attended KKK events in the past.

I have years ago, she said in 2015. That was years ago, and that is not even something that comes up anymore.

More: Dixie Outfitters responds to Black Lives Matter protest, calls demonstrators 'thugs'

She alsospokeabout what she felt was the wrong impression many people have about the Confederate flag.

It has nothing to do with slavery, which the media always want to bring in, she had said.

But the Anti-Defamation League and other's have pointed to the flag's connection to the Civil War and its history as "a symbol of white supremacy and slavery."

"Which is why white supremacists throughout the years have flown the flag themselves because they, too, acknowledge it as a symbol of white supremacy, saidMark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation Leagues Center on Extremism.

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'Branson is moving the needle': Black Lives Matter takes to Dixie Outfitters - News-Leader

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