Jackson visits Jonesboro for civil rights march

By Tami Wynn

Published: Monday, August 27, 2012

Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012

jesse jackson

Tami Wynn, Staff Photographer

Teresa Carter is comforted by her husband George Douglas as Rev. Jesse Jackson leads a prayer for their son, Chavis Carter moments before a crowd of hundreds march from Hatlom Street to The Criminal Justice Complex in Jonesboro on Wednesday.

The Commission on Religion and Race (C.O.R.R.) protested in Jonesboro, Ark. Aug.14, demanding answers for the death of 21-year old Chavis Carter, an African American man who Jonesboro police say shot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back of a patrol car, after being searched twice by two white officers in July.

Isaac Richmond echoed from the loud speaker, “These are not the days of old, yet we’re still watching young black men being beaten and killed by law enforcement.”
The Arkansas Chapter director of the CORR did not hold back questions for Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin, Jonesboro Police Chief Michael Yates and the two officers present during the death of Carter, officer Keith Baggett and officer Ron Marsh.

His questions vibrated through the downtown streets of Jonesboro over a loud speaker, “Tell us Chief Yates, what really happened to that boy? We demand answers and we will keep coming back until the truth is told,” Richmond shouted across the street toward the police station on Washington Ave.

Richmond said Police Chief Michael Yates was run out of the police force in the state of Georgia by the NAACP, and claims the CORR has a copy of Yates’ records there for what Richmond called  “racist allegations.“
“I want to know how Michael Yates was kicked out of one state for a hate crime and embraced in another as police chief,” Richmond said, “We are demanding that he step down as police chief.”
Chief Yates released a statement to Region 8 News saying, “I believe (the accusation) is inaccurate and unfounded,” and “I have no intention of resigning.” He said the investigation is ongoing as they are still collecting evidence.

Yates said he was never fired from Americus Police Department in Georgia, instead he said he resigned.

The Arkansas Chapter of the CORR began its first of two demonstrations Tuesday regarding the young man’s death.

Close to 30 members of the community joined the demonstration and lead prayer circles in front of City Hall. Carter’s close friends came wearing T-shirts with a photo of him printed on the front, talking about their friend who they say would “never commit suicide.”
A friend of the family Felecia Harvey said she is outraged at the way the case has been handled by officials and will keep asking questions until the “truth is revealed.”
“I’m not Chavis’ mother, but I am a mother with a young black son and I can’t believe we are still dancing around the racial issue in 2012,” Harvey said shaking her head.

A CORR member Maxine Tomlinson of Memphis Tenn. wore a sign that read,
“End the big lie.

No suicide
Of Chavis Carter.”
She said Carter’s death was not a suicide, but a murder that the JPD is trying hard to “cover up.”
“ It bothers me to see injustices like this, cause that’s what it is. It was murder, senseless murder,” Tomlinson said.

Direct and personal questions were being shouted at the mayor, the police chief and the two officers involved, but they did not respond to the crowd of demonstrators, instead they waited for the City Hall meeting.

 On Tuesday, Aug. 21, CORR marched its second demonstration with less of a crowd. They marched from Hatlom Street, where Carter died to City Hall where they attended the City Hall meeting.

Prior to the march an exclusive interview with New MT. Zion Missionary Baptist Church Pastor, Dr. Ray Scales took place in the very spot the police cruiser sat during Carters death. Scales was the first African American man to work for KAIT8 News.

“The report is in, and some of us accepted the report, but we still have questions,” He said when asked about his personal opinions on the State Crime Lab Reports’ “Suicide” ruling. “I really don’t know what to think. I have not received my answer from God, that’s what I’m waiting for.”

He said this isn’t so much a racial issue, but rather a human one.

“This is about a mother trying to find out what happened to her son, not so much about skin color,” Scales said, “I’m just hoping we can resolve this peacefully.

Scales said he knows Chief Yates and one of the officers and said he’s never seen

“I know Officer Bagget and I would be shocked if he was involved in something like this. I’d be real surprised,” he said.

“ I think Chief Yates is an OK guy from my standpoint. He’s always been upfront with us, and I don’t know the other officer,” Scales said.

The Carter family was not present during either of the CORR marches.

Wednesday, Aug. 23, a third march took place in Jonesboro without the CORR presence. Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chavis Carter’s mom and dad, Teresa Carter and Charles Douglas, and the Carter family attorney, Ben Irwin led a 40-minute march beginning with a prayer to unite all people in the community for one reason.

“We are here for non-violent participation in the justice of Chavis Carter. This is not about black and white, it’s about wrong and right,” Rev. Jackson told the crown of hundreds.

After a prayer and the song, “We Shall Overcome,” Rev. Jackson took Teresa Carter’s hand in his while standing on the very spot her son allegedly killed himself, and began the march to the Justice Complex.

Teresa barely spoke throughout the march, but said she is hurting too bad right now.

“I’m in pain and just trying to survive,” she said in a barely audible voice.

When they arrived at the Justice Complex, close to 100 more people waited on the lawns, across the street and in the parking lots to hear what Rev. Jackson had to say.

The crowd mainly consisted of African Americans, but had several white and Hispanic gatherers.

Rev. Jackson spoke and his crowd echoed his every word until he handed the mike to the family attorney, Ben Irwin of the Cochran Law Firm in Memphis, Tenn.

Irwin began by saying, “Folks we are in front of a Justice Complex, what an appropriate place to be asking for justice in this case.”

He questioned the “three and a half minutes of video” missing from the dash cam videos released by JPD and asked why gun residue tests haven’t been done on Carter or the officers.

He said not enough evidence is being presented by the Jonesboro Police Department and they need to step aside in the investigation and let an outside force take over.

“We’ve allowed a lot of assumptions and opinions come out as facts,” he said, “An investigation cannot start with a conclusion.”

“I’ve heard of more releases this afternoon, during this 40-minute march, from the scene of this tragic event to the Criminal justice complex, than I have since it began,” Irwin said, “Is that what it’s going to take? For us to continually march and ask questions so we can find out what happened to this young man.”

JPD later told media that the dash cam “malfunctioned” during the three minutes of video missing from the dash cam that would have possibly caught the gunshot in the audio, if not video too. It also released a statement saying they have new evidence that Carter was in possession of the gun while in police custody through Carter and his girlfriend’s phone records.

Yates said he did ask for gun residue tests to be done on Carter, but the Arkansas State Crime Lab does not perform the test on victims of gunshot homicides or suicides, Deputy Director Dr. Stephen Erickson told the Los Angeles Times.

As more and more evidence is revealed in the case, the two officers remain on leave until the results of the investigation are complete. Whether or not JPD will step aside, remains to be seen.

The crowd finished with the same song it began the march with, “We Shall Overcome,” as members of the crowd reach out to hug, hold and speak words of comfort to Chavis Carter’s mom, Teresa.



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