UPDATE: Civil rights groups to protest at last known location of Emmett Till’s accuser in Bowling Green
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Emmett Louis Till was just 14 years old when he was abducted, tortured, and lynched in Mississippi after Carolyn Bryant Donham accused Till of whistling at her.
“We’re saying that even if that was a crime, and it’s not, there’s no way to treat a child,” said National Spokesperson for the New Black Panther Party, Mmoja Ajabu. “A child might do anything, 14 years old, they might do anything.”
In June 2022, almost 70 years after Till’s death, an outstanding arrest warrant for Donham was discovered in a Mississippi courthouse basement.
This led various civil rights groups to Bowling Green, Donham’s last known location.
“We don’t think that you would want to be a city that goes down in history as the city that harbored the woman that fingered Emmett Till,” Ajabu said. “So we’re asking you to help us get the word out, so justice can be done.”
An armed protest will be held where protesters claim to be Donham’s apartment, in the hopes of convincing the Mississippi court to execute the warrant against her.
“When you’re talking about Bowling Green, this is the court of public opinion. We want people to be aware. We’re going to have a filing in the court of legal opinion because we’re going to tell the courts that the system is not working,” Ajabu said.
At this time, Bowling Green Police cannot arrest Donham unless directed by the court in Mississippi.
”The warrant was located in the basement of the county courthouse and then taken to the courts to determine if the warrant could be reissued. A grand jury convened and returned a no-true bill meaning, they would not issue a warrant,” said Bowling Green Police Public Information Officer Ronnie Ward. “At this point, any arrest made of Bryant-Donham would be unlawful. Any questions about the validity of the 1955 warrant for Bryant-Donham should be directed to the court in Mississippi.”
Protesters have been in communication with Bowling Green Police to ensure things are kept safe for both protestors and the community.
“Conversations with the protest folks have been cordial,” said Ward. “We have pretty much-given everything that we expect, they’ve given what they expect, and we’ve met in the middle ground.”
Police say they do have plans in place for police presence but didn’t want to elaborate further due to security purposes.
“I think everyone just needs to remain vigilant. If you see something that makes you uncomfortable, contact the police department immediately,” Ward said.
Protesters said they were not arming themselves to attack, but to protect themselves.
The Bowling Green NAACP has released a statement, explaining why they will not be participating in the protest:
“While the NAACP does continue to fully support the continued call for justice for Emmett Till, our units will not take part as a sponsor, participant, or in any other fashion related to this protest. This is due in part to safety concerns for the event, as well as focusing our energies on those who are currently being discriminated against and need immediate assistance. The NAACP recognizes the full weight of Mr. Till’s story and the weight of so many others who have been harmed or even killed by racist acts throughout the course of history.”
True Healing Under God (THUG), a civil rights organization, will be in attendance for the protest. They say they will be armed in the event of counter-protesters.
”Miss Donham has been running. From Jackson, MS to Raleigh, NC, and now Bowling Green, KY,” said John C. Barnett, leader of THUG and National Civil Rights Activist,
“A nice, quiet city, but little did Bowling Green know that she was living right up under their noses. Yeah, she is 87 years old. I do not care if she is 97 years old. She needs to go to jail.”
Barnett said that groups of people will be coming to protest from 13 states including Indiana, Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi.
The armed protest will be taking place on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022.
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