February 14, 2022

Justice protest in Brookhaven gets tense as police chief, Black Panthers trade words

Therese Apel

A protest in Brookhaven, calling for justice for D'Monterrio Gibson, a black Fed Ex driver who was allegedly shot at by a local white father and son. (Photo credit: Jarvis J. Robinson)
Brookhaven Police Chief Kenny Collins addresses a protest crowd at the Lincoln County Courthouse. (Photo credit: Mary Townsend)

In the time since Fed Ex driver D’Monterrio Gibson was allegedly trapped and shot at by white father and son Gregory and Brandon Case in Brookhaven, tensions have risen — for good reason or not — between the citizens and police.

The black community has been expressing questions about why the men weren’t charged with a hate crime. On Saturday, they called a protest at the Lincoln County Courthouse to call for justice in Gibson’s situation. They were joined by the Black Panther Party, Poor Peoples Campaign, the NAACP, and Black Lives Matter.

Pastor Rico Cain, the head of the Brookhaven chapter of the NAACP, said there was a decent crowd on hand for what was a peaceful protest that Cain said was supported across the board by both black and white citizens.

“Between the opening and closing, there had to be 150 people,” he said. “They were a majority African-American, but we had so much support from the white community in different ways, in phone calls and giving us water and things… they show they support the cause because they do not like racism, they don’t appreciate it in their town.”

The Black Panthers, as is not uncommon, were armed and intimidating, though open carrying weapons is legal in Mississippi. During the protest, the group gathered there called for the resignation of Police Chief Kenny Collins, and Mayor Joe Cox among others. The protest also featured speeches from various people talking about problems they’ve had with law enforcement, or situations where they felt justice had not been done.

“We had a great crowd from not just locally, but people that came from Chicago, Memphis, the Gulf Coast because they believe in the cause and the purpose of why we’re having a rally,” Cain said. “Especially because we just shared the death of Ahmaud Arbery, everyone is still feeling how that family felt. While everyone was marching and rallying, we just felt like it could have been the same way for this family as well.”

One of the speakers was Vivian Hathorn, a Brookhaven resident who shared her story of when her accelerator stuck and she couldn’t make her car stop. While radio traffic showed police knew her accelerator was stuck, an officer pulled her out of the vehicle and put her on her belly to cuff her. She was nine months pregnant and delivered two days later. The baby was healthy and the officer was cleared of any wrongdoing, but Hathorn, the NAACP, and others around her felt the whole thing was handled badly.

As the crowd was beginning to disperse, Brookhaven Police Chief Kenny Collins pulled up and began to address the crowd, telling them that the whole group will owe him an apology when the facts come out.

According to videos taken at the protest, when Gibson’s mother called Collins by his first name to ask him a question, he told her to address him as “Chief Collins,” which brought a rumbling response from the crowd.

At one point, an emcee with a megaphone asked the crowd to back away from Collins, as they had begun to circle in on him, calling him names and chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”

Since the protest was at the county courthouse, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office. They had been watching the proceedings on security cameras in their office just behind the courthouse.

When the crowd got more heated in response to Collins’ appearance at the protest, the videos show Sheriff Steve Rushing making his way through the crowd to where Collins was standing. He put his arm around the chief and said something to him that nobody could hear, and Collins got back into his truck.

“I explained to the chief that it would be best if the Sheriff’s Department handled it since it was on the courthouse grounds,” Rushing said. “Certainly everyone has the right to voice their opinions, but it had been a peaceful protest and we wanted it to end peacefully.”

Another rally is planned for February 27, and civil rights attorney Carlos Moore is spearheading the efforts.

“Tell Chief Kenny Collins of Brookhaven that he has met his match. I’m Attorney Carlos Moore and I too don’t run from anyone,” Moore posted on Monday.

See videos from the protest below.

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