The Bowling Green Jaycees Christmas Parade and a holiday market were canceled Saturday after law enforcement said they had received a threat of a shooting at protests also planned for Saturday in the Western Kentucky city.
In a video posted to Facebook early Saturday, Bowling Green Police Chief Michael Delaney said at least three groups were planning simultaneous protests at noon Saturday at the Warren County Justice Center and on the 1000 block of Shive Lane.
"Late this evening, we've learned of a threat to these protesters," Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower said in the video. "The specific threat is threatening to shoot anyone who is protesting and anyone helping the protesters. As of this moment, we have not been able to determine the validity of this threat. However, we feel it is important to alert our citizens."
The police department and sheriff's department said they were working with the Kentucky State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security to determine the validity of the threat.
The protests scheduled for Saturday were intended to call attention to Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman whose encounter with 14-year-old Emmett Till in a Mississippi grocery store in 1955 set off a chain of events that led to Till's murder and served as a catalyst for the civil rights movement. Donham, now in her late 80s, is living in Bowling Green, according to multiple media reports.
In August, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict Donham on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter. A warrant for her arrest that dated back to 1955 had been recently uncovered.
The Bowling Green Daily News reported that a "Death to White Supremacy Rally" planned for Saturday was organized by Black Lawyers for Justice, Till family members, the New Black Panthers and other groups.
Mmoja Ajabu of the Veterans Association of African Descendants told the newspaper that the protest would be peaceful but that some attendees would be armed for their protection.
In response to the police and sheriff's department statement, Christmas parade organizers said they had decided to cancel the parade "out of an abundance of caution," since their main focus is "the safety of our participants and spectators."
"We have been in constant communication with law enforcement and have felt, all week, that we could provide a safe, fun event. With this latest information we knew that postponing was our best option," a statement posted on the parade's Facebook page stated. "We will be working, today, to come up with another date for the parade."
The SoKY Marketplace announced that it was canceling a holiday market planned for Saturday, as well.
"We are working diligently to establish a makeup day for all our wonderful vendors and for patrons," the organization said on its Facebook page. "Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work to ensure the safety of vendors and patrons."