MANITOWOC, Wisconsin (WBAY) – There have been no problems with protesters rallying in support of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey at the Manitowoc County Courthouse, according to Manitowoc Police Capt. Larry Zimney.

Zimney held a news conference Friday morning on the steps of the courthouse where protesters had been chanting and holding signs in support of the men convicted of killing Teresa Halbach at the Avery property in 2005.

Zimney estimates about 50-80 protesters have gathered there, both those who support Avery and Dassey and those who believe they are guilty.

Their cases were thrown into the limelight after a Netflix docu-series, “Making a Murderer,” was released last month.

“They’re exercising their constitutional right, which we fully respect,” Zimney said.

Zimney says police had seen posts on social media that there could be a crowd of up to 200 people at the rally, but he believes the cold weather may be keeping that number down. Police say they are prepared for a larger crowd.

The captain said rally organizers told him they planned to pack up the protest once the courthouse closes at 4:30 p.m., but police will not give them a time by which they have to leave.

The captain says no businesses have been negatively impacted by the protesters, which he called “respectful.”

Megan McGuiness traveled from Minnesota to take part in the rally outside the Manitowoc County Courthouse, the site of the Avery and Dassey murder trials.

McGuiness says the group, which supports new trials for Avery and Dassey, is not out to cause trouble for the city.

“To show the city that we can come together peacefully, we’re really stressing that, but to boost this town,” said McGuiness. “After that documentary aired, I know this town took a toll. And us being out here, whether it’s a few dozen or a few hundred, we’re going to be filling gas stations, we’re going to be filling your food places.  We’re out here to show we’re doing good.”

Manitowoc Police have closed some streets and imposed some parking limitations:

  • S. 9th Street will be closed from Washington Street to Marshall Street
  • Hancock Street will be closed at S. 9th Street.
  • No Parking will be allowed on either the north or south sides of the 900 block of Hancock Street
  • No Parking on the south side of Washington St and the west side of S. 8th St directly in front of the Manitowoc County Courthouse

“We realize these restrictions may cause some inconvenience for some persons and business owners, but these precautions are needed for the safety of the activists and the citizens of Manitowoc,” says a news release from the Manitowoc Police Department.

The closures and parking restrictions will be in effect “as long as they are needed,” police say.

Police have a plan in place to call for help if needed.

“We could obviously get help from the sheriff’s department, if we needed it,” said Zimney. “State Patrol will have people in the area that we could draw from if we needed to. Also Brown County has offered people if we need them. And of course, our local mutual aid with Two Rivers or Kiel or other local law enforcement agencies that would be willing to help.”

Across the street from the Manitowoc County courthouse, the Courthouse Pub is getting ready in their kitchen, at the bar, and at the phones for what could be a very busy Friday.

“I expect we’re going to have people coming in and out, warming up,” said John Jagemann, owner of Courthouse Pub, “so [we] kicked up the staff a little bit, the kitchen is ready to go, we’re ready for a bigger crowd on Friday.”

Many people who live in or are from Manitowoc believe the documentary has given people around the country a bad impression of the city. But they hope the people coming in on Friday can leave with a more positive view.

“I’m hoping when they come here they’ll see we’re a small town in Wisconsin, we’re located on Lake Michigan, wonderful place to visit and have a vacation,” said Jagemann. “I don’t know if they will or not.”

Jagemann also thinks it’s important for everyone to remember, whatever your views, this is more than a trending topic.

“This is a tragic story, and I try to keep reminding myself and my crew, as marketers, we tend to look at things as opportunities. In this case, no,” said Jagemann. “This is a tragedy in a family, two families, maybe three families.”