CrabFest organizer calls for protest after injunction

On Thursday CrabFest organizer Keniuel Gates continued to call on supporters to show up for a Saturday protest, a day after a state circuit court granted Levy County an injunction to block the annual music festival. 

“I want to be clear,” Gates wrote on his Facebook page Thursday afternoon. “I have an injunction against me in the promoting of Crabfest, NOT my protest.” 

The Levy County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) filed the injunction request earlier this month after 60 homeowners and several local pastors lobbied the board to not allow CrabFest, which typically attracts thousands of people to an unincorporated area east of Williston. Shortly before the BOCC meeting, Gates had cut the scheduled music acts in hopes of avoiding the injunction and the need for a special event permit. 

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The Levy County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) has issued a Saturday traffic advisory for the area and plans to establish checkpoints to only allow in local residents. 

“If any local or state agency obstructs any vehicle to suppress those individuals from attending a peaceful assembly the government is on your side,” Gates wrote on his Facebook page. “Video and take pictures for your case, make them tell you that you can not assemble peaceful.” 

In a Facebook live video posted to his wife’s page Wednesday night, Gates said he would abide by the injunction, but then called on people to come for a protest. 

Meanwhile, the LCSO continues to warn the public to stay away from the area. 

“Residents of the Williston neighborhood along CR 318 where the event has historically taken place say enough is enough,” LCSO spokesman Scott Tummond wrote in a Thursday blog post. “Mr. Gates organized a protest in this very neighborhood in September of 2020. The protest turned block party devolved into a senseless act of violence where six people were shot.”

Tummond wrote that the LCSO considers Gates’ calls for a protest to be a contradiction of his promise to follow the injunction. 

“Sheriff [Robert] McCallum, the residents of East Williston, the Ministerial Faith Alliance and the Levy County Board of County Commissioners are asking all to join together, refuse to participate in Mr. Gates or anyone else’s efforts to circumvent the injunction and help bring peace to this community,” Tummond wrote. “Sheriff McCallum respects everyone’s 1st Amendment Right to peacefully assemble and their right to free speech but will not tolerate violence or any other violation of law, including blocking roads, which threaten our citizen’s safety.”

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