On Saturday, November 29, members of the Macon chapter of the NAACP along with the local community rallied in front of Macon’s federal courthouse at 475 Mulberry Street in an effort to raise awareness and offer support for the family of Michael Brown.
Ferguson, Missouri has been the epicenter of protests since the death of an unarmed African-American teen for the last four months and the story has ignited responses in the form of discussions and street protests all over the country including cities such as Macon and Warner Robins.
On August 19, Pastor Troy Wynn of Uniting God’s Kingdom Family Life Church in Warner Robins moderated a discussion about what lessons should be taken from Ferguson with other local clergy and members of the community. Subsequently, the November 29 event led by the Macon NAACP wanted to relay the message of peace and encourage a better relationship between law enforcement and the community.
On November 24– three days before Thanksgiving– St. Louis prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced to a worldwide television audience that no charges will be filed against Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson police officer who shot Michael Brown. A twelve-member grand jury had been convened (9 whites, 3 blacks) in August. However, Cornell Brooks, the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), called for a special prosecutor to replace McCulloch in the case, saying that was needed to restore credibility with Ferguson’s black community, and Missouri state Senator Jamilah Nasheed presented a petition with 70,000 signatures calling for McCulloch’s recusal.
Gwen Westbrooks, the Macon-Bibb NAACP President told Central Georgia’s largest television station the following:
“We’re here today to have a call to action to discuss where we go from here. Obviously there are going to have to be some changes, actually across the nation not just in Georgia.”
“And we’re also here for our own community and we’re here for peace and we want to try to calm the nation and we want to show our support in doing that by having this prayer vigil today,” Westbrooks added.
Some of the proposed changes include equipping police with body cameras and there is a train of thought by doing would document whether police acted in self-defense or overreacted. There are some privacy concerns potentially when cameras go into homes or record sensitive conversations. Police agencies are implementing policies on the fly over when cameras must be turned on and off, how to store the videos and how to comply with public records laws.
Macon-Bibb’s top cop spoke about the weekend rally sponsored by the local NAACP and told WMAZ-TV: “That is not only a tragedy for Ferguson but a national tragedy,” says Macon-Bibb Sheriff David Davis. “So it’s fitting, especially for law enforcement to be here, to show we are one with the community. And we want to avoid such tragic events as we have seen in Ferguson.”
“The things that need to be changed are the things a lot of communities, and I feel our community here are constantly doing. It’s always nurturing and building a relationship with the people that you serve in the community.” says Davis. “That may be something that’s been lacking in other places, but that’s what helps to avoid tragedies like what happened out there. I think that we build these partnerships, we let the community know that we’re going to be there for them if they have concerns about what our officers do.”
The city of Macon hasn’t been immune to controversial incidents involving local police and a local prosecutor who chose not to indict the officer.
On December 21, 2012, Sammie Davis, Jr., 49, an African-American man was shot three times to the chest in an incident involving Sutton, who is white and had been been with the Macon Police Department since 2006.
Davis’ family believes its is unfair for the GBI report –released in late February 2013– to focus exclusively on Davis’ alleged mental disorder, but Davis was unarmed and did not have a criminal record or pending warrants against him.
Shortly after the shooting, Macon Police put out a narrative that Clayton Sutton was attempting to serve a warrant to Sammy Davis, Jr. The information turned out to be false. Subsequently, Macon’s District Attorney had a press conference in March 2013 shown on local television announcing he would not indict Clayton Sutton.