Five voices from the "Day of Protest" in Columbus
In the wake of deadly police shootings in Charlotte, N.C., and Tulsa, Okla, the president of the Columbus branch of NAACP called on residents to gather for midnight prayer Friday at the Public Safety Center.
Tonza Thomas, president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the civil rights organization joined forces with groups in Troup County and Lamar for midnight prayer.
“This day of protest in cities across Georgia from Columbus to Augusta, Athens to Albany to uplift the common sense policy solutions that will improve police community relations and propose new legislation,” Thomas said during a 6:30 p.m. conference.
The midnight prayer and call for police action come after Keith Lamar Scott was shot and killed in Charlotte, N.C., and Terrence Crutcher was killed in Tulsa, Okla.
While the actions are in protest to the shootings, Thomas said the effort was to find solutions. She also said the NAACP condemns attacks on law enforcement on a day when she stood with members representing the Columbus Police Department, Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office and the Muscogee County Marshals Office.
Thomas quoted a statement from Francys Johnson, president of the NAACP in Statesboro, Ga., Johnson wrote that the shootings are opposing the core values of Americans.
“Change must come to policing in America but can’t and will not at the end of the barrel of a gun,” Johnson wrote. “This day of protest comes after Nathan Deal announced measures to improve police community relationships. The Georgia NAACP announces its skepticism that the legislative package being considered by Deal is aimed at showing support for retrained state law enforcement officers but would sacrifice meaningful improvements to community relations.”
Johnson said details of the measure are still unclear, but the governor is interested in doing more than “window dressing.”
The state president also said leaders hold rallies and fundraising events seeking votes, but people demand they support legislative reform to a fractured criminal justice system in the murder of black and brown men and women at the hands of police.
Thomas said the local organization has launched its “Vote Counts” campaign to register voters in Muscogee County and the high schools. “If we can partner with law enforcement, schools and city government, this must be good place to live,” she said.