Grayson Merchant – “Every business in this town was threatened.” – Dustin Howard

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Grayson business owner Dustin Howard offers no apology to anyone who does not understand why local merchants and property owners were prepared to defend their businesses last weekend.

“A lot of businesses are getting slammed for protecting themselves. We were here and protected – because of all of the threats that were made and what was said. People were expecting the worst,” Howard said, stirring a pot of beans in the kitchen at ZZ’s Bar & Grill next to Dixie Lanes bowling center.

“This had nothing to do with race or Black Lives Matter. What it had to do with was every business in this town was threatened,” he added.

“I agree with the people who had protection because I called my insurance agent and asked. He said it (damage from a riot such as vandalism or arson) may or may not be covered. With pandemic you’re down business already … and then you’re looking at having your windows busted out?”

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Howard commended the city’s business owners for their calm response.

“I don’t think you saw any business owners on Main Street calling anybody names or making racial slurs,” he said, later adding “As far as business goes, it doesn’t pay to be racist.”

Howard said he agrees the counter protest actually had little to do with the Black Lives Matter movement and instead was a reaction to a threat believed to be real (videos posted by organizer Dee Garrett), as well as against Garrett himself, whose criminal record (also widely circulated via social media) includes a sex crime involving a minor.

“They came to support the town and our police officers. People are upset with him – it doesn’t matter what color he is,” he said.

Howard said he had trouble sleeping in the days leading up to the protest and march, and gained a new appreciation for those who serve in the nation’s military and other protective roles. Those sleepless nights were punctuated with “what if?” questions, he noted.

The local merchant also expressed his displeasure with some of the public backlash from last weekend’s protest.

“Our town has been painted as a racial slur. I feel Grayson was targeted and painted as racist,” he said. “Grayson has diversity. We have blacks, Asians, Mexicans and they all have businesses and get along great. I don’t see that there’s a racial problem here at all. There’s racism anywhere you go.”

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Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON 

Carter County Post

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