“I’ve never had any run-ins with the cops before. I’ve never been to jail and have no criminal record, so when the FBI showed up to my workplace, it scared the piss out of me,” says Katy, a 22-year-old who works for a custodial services company in Cookeville, a small college town in middle Tennessee. “I really thought I was going to lose my job. The whole experience was terrifying.”
Moved by the video of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Katy — who requested she only be identified by her first name — and a friend had created a Facebook event for a Black Lives Matter rally in Cookeville’s public square on Saturday, June 6. She soon connected with several other Cookeville locals who wanted to help with planning the event, and enthusiasm grew as word of the rally spread.
“I’ve never organized a rally before, I was just winging it,” Katy said. “I didn’t expect a lot of people to show up, but overnight 600 people had RSVP’d on Facebook.”
Counter-protesters organized their own Facebook group, Protect Cookeville Against Looters, which quickly swelled to over 1,000 members. Some of the members of this group determined that Katy was the main organizer of the upcoming rally and began posting her personal information and making violent threats.
“The event for the rally had been up for about four days when we started getting death threats,” Katy said. “It was too much. I was overwhelmed.”