Local law enforcement prepared for possible protests, unrest on election night

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CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WSAV) – The threat of civil unrest is on the minds of many this Election Day, and local law enforcement says it is prepared to protect voters.

The Chatham County Sheriff’s Office says people have a right to peacefully protest, but demonstrators must stay 150 feet away from voting locations and 25 feet away from the last voter in line.

“You know, you just prepare for the unknown,” Sheriff John Wilcher said.

Wilcher says throughout his 45 years of service to Chatham County, he’s never dealt with this kind of election, where protests are expected and civil unrest is a possibility.

“People have the right to demonstrate, but when you move off of demonstration line into a line of being a criminal, that’s a whole different story,” Wilcher said.

CCSO is working with city and county police to make sure all 92 polling places are covered. They may not be visible at all times, but they say officers will be periodically checking in with poll managers throughout the night.

“We’re going to be here to serve and protect the people and they’re going to be able to go and vote and do it peacefully,” Wilcher said.

In order to keep peace, election officials are reminding citizens that they cannot just decide to be a poll watcher.

“Some of our government leaders have even encouraged people to go to the polls and watch what’s going on,” Colin McRae of the Board of Registrars said. “You can’t do that unless you are a properly designated poll watcher you cannot go into a polling place and just stand around and watch.”

There is no word on how people will react to election results, but Savannah Mayor Van Johnson is asking people to do it respectfully.

“We have the responsibility, I believe, to accept the legal results and move on as a community,” Johnson said.

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