Community gathers for prayer and protest (WITH VIDEO & AUDIO)By KAREN FIORETTI,
A group of nearly 50 people gathered on the lawn of the Attala County courthouse Sunday morning in response to the civil unrest across the country resulting from the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis, MN, police officer. Another 30 mostly younger people marched from the library to the courthouse in protest mid-afternoon.
Morning event organizer Paula Winters-Bayne of Wesley United Methodist Church, preached peace and unity.
The half-hour gathering featured prayer and song, and included comments from Mayor Jimmy Cockroft, who noted that Kosciusko has never experienced the overt racial tension of many other communities.
“It’s a tough time, we fight coronavirus and we fight everything else we’ve got going on as a country. This community has always been together, black and white, and we’ve got to stay that way,” said Cockroft. “We know our policemen. They’re not perfect. Jimmy’s not perfect either, but you know these guys. They are not going to mistreat you because of your color… because of anything — male or female, young or old, or black or white.”
Before leading a prayer, the Mayor urged men to be leaders and protectors of their families.
“…Men, we’re outnumbered again here…. A man’s got to start being a man if this country’s going to change. Plain as day,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what color that man is, but a man’s got to be a man, protect his home and lead his family and take care of his family.”
Following the event, Winters-Bayne said she wanted to bring people together to pray and celebrate that the unrest plaguing other communities right now is foreign to Kosciusko.
“With everything going on, coronavirus, people afraid… God has not given us a spirit of fear. The shooting, the killing…. We have to love our brothers and sisters as God loves us,” she told The Star-Herald. “Our message today is that our community is a good community. We don’t want to snowball what is going on in other areas to our people; to feel like we have to walk in fear.” “We know our policemen,” she said. “There are protectors in our community and leaders in our community. We just want to be blessed that we don’t have to live in fear.”
Winters-Bayne’s niece, Joie Johnson and her friend Alyssa Boston, both KHS graduates, led a younger group carrying protest signs from the Attala County Library to courthouse square on Sunday afternoon.
Prior to the march, Kosciusko Police Capt. Josh Pinkard told the group they needed a permit to march, but when the officer left the area, the group proceeded to walk with their signs displayed, chanting and marching along the sidewalks until they reached the courthouse lawn.
Once in the same location as the earlier event, Johnson urged the community to join in solving racial injustice.
“I feel like if you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem,” Johnson told the group after Antonio Riley led a welcome prayer.
“Fear is not an excuse to not … protest against things that are an injustice. Because even if we’re not the same race, we really are the same race — the human race. Each one of us matters, true enough,” she said.
“When we say ‘black lives matter,’ we’re not excluding any other race,” she said. “We’re just letting you know that we matter, too. When we live in a world that has to remind you that a certain race matters just as much as your life matters, then there is a problem.”
“We know there is a problem going on in our town, in our community, in our country and in our world,” Johnson said.
Alyssa Boston then recited her poem about racial injustice, "Wake Up," before the group resumed their march.
Watch morning video here: