Hattiesburg protesters call for change, equality
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Hundreds marched peacefully through Hattiesburg Saturday afternoon, with about 1,000 gathering at the Forrest County Circuit Courthouse to call for an end to racial injustice and a level field for people of all races.
“My mind is blown,” said Ward 5 Hattiesburg Councilman Nick Brown, who helped organize the event. “This is history, man. We came out to make a statement [Saturday] and we did. It was great. It was peace. It was love. It’s a bunch of love, man. It’s all about love, peace and unity.”
As well as a continuous cry for change, not only in revamping how police departments approach and treat minorities, but also in removing symbols that many consider repressive and racist.
“Tear it down, tear it down, tear it down,” came in response from the crowd to a stream of speakers’ demands that the Forrest County Confederate monument be removed from its place adjacent to the courthouse near the corner of Main and Eaton streets.
“We are looking at a statute of a great man who fought for all of us,” Ward 2 Hattiesburg Councilwoman Deborah Delgado said, gesturing eastward in the other direction toward the more recently installed memorial to Civil Rights figure Vernon Dahmer.
Forrest County District 4 Supervisor Rod Woullard got one of the largest roars during the two-hour rally when he said he intended to make a motion in Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, asking that monument be removed.
“There’s nothing more powerful than the power of the like-minded, and that’s what I see as I look at you [Saturday],” Woullard said.
The Black Lives Matter event took the form of two, separate marches that converged at the speakers’ platform on the courthouse steps.
One group marched from Mobile Street near E 7th Street. A second group gathered on the other side of Hattiesburg at Vernon Dahmer Park. The marching began around 3 p.m., with the groups arriving downtown around 4 p.m.
The mixed-race crowd listened to calls for police reform, for an erasure of systematic racism, for true acceptance of one another rather than mere tolerance.
Many said the push for equality and fairness would continue beyond Saturday’s beginning.
“We are all equal in the sight of God,” Woullard said. “We are all God’s children.”
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