The return of the Citizens for Justice march and rally took place Sunday afternoon where local citizens gathered in order to take a stand and speak out against issues of racial injustice that are taking place in Minden. The rally was used to educate and register people to vote, stand together, and finally, to swear in the Governor appointed Councilman for District A, Wayne Edwards.
Shaquarius Williams was there to speak and inform those present about voting.
“We’re starting today’s rally by addressing something that is pivotal in everyone’s lives and in our community as was just stated, voting,” said Williams.
“We all know that voting is important on a country wide level. But often city wide voting is overlooked, or not taken as serious. It is just as important, if not more so, to be knowledgeable of the rules, regulations, and laws that govern the place you have to live in. These laws affect you.”
She then explained three different ways for people to register to vote. The first was online through the Geaux Vote OnlineRegistration System, which people only need a driver’s license or ID for, as long as it’s done 20 days before the election. She also mentioned that people can register in person at the DMV, Department of Children and Family Services, etc., as long as it’s done 30 days before the election. Finally, she stated that people can register by mail by downloading the Louisiana Voter Registration application, completing it, and mailing it to the local Registrar of Voters office.
“Before I leave, let me speak on the people and organizations that’ll be coming to some of you and telling you who to vote for. Where are they now? Where were they when our black council members were being disrespected in their term. Where were they when the police officers who made racial posts for everyone to see were rehired and put back out there on the streets with y’all? Where were they when the councilwoman just made racially motivated posts on Facebook two weeks ago?” asked Williams.
“Home. They were at home. Where are they for this fight for justice and inequality in our community? They are at home, comfortably spending thousands, yes, thousands of dollars that they were paid to sell your vote. That is why you can’t get in contact with your politicians. They won’t answer your calls or be held accountable for what they said they were gonna do for you when you were campaigning. It’s because the people that you trusted are reaping all the benefits. It’s because you sold your vote, so you sold your voice, and it has since been silenced.”
“Tell them, let them know that your vote is not for sale. If they cannot stand with you and for you in a time of need and adversity when we need them, they should not be able to tell you who to vote for. It doesn’t matter how sweet it sounds. Vote like your life depends on it y’all, because it does, it really does.””
Pastor Rodney Williams was the next speaker who used the opportunity to express the importance of the community sticking together with one another in order to enact the changes that they want to see in Minden.
“I want to say that one of my favorite cartoons is Scooby-Doo. Whenever they caught the monster, it was somebody that they always knew that had a mask on. We came today to take the mask off the monster, so we can really see what’s behind the mask,” said Williams.
“We know the cards have been stacked at the City Council. We understand that the role has been laid out, but we thank God that we understand that when we come together, we can do some things.”
“Snowflakes are the most fragile things in nature, but look at what they can do when they stick together. They can shut down a whole city if they stick together, they can stop traffic if they stick together.”
He also used the time to echo Shaquarius Williams’ sentiments about the importance of voting. “Today we have the right to vote. We have the right because our vote has been bought with the blood of our forefathers, and we’re not gonna sell it for a barbecue. We’re not gonna sell it for fish frys,” said Williams.
“We need to understand that the only sin we’ve caused is the skin we’re in. That we were born black. We were born with some melatonin in our skin. So today we came to stand as a unit, we came to stand as a group. So that we could tell everybody, all of the officers, everybody in city hall that we ain’t going nowhere.”
The next to speak was Pastor T. Alexander Knapp, whose career in law enforcement provides an internal perspective from someone who has worked in the force first-hand. He also expressed the grievances he faces every day being an African-American in the United States and Minden.
“I want to start by saying here today I’m not anti-police, but I’m anti-bad police. In my native hometown of Flint, Michigan, as a child, we looked up to the police. While in grade school I was a Police Cadet. In high school I was a Cadet Teacher. In my college years in the summer, I served as a police community service officer for the Flint Police Dept. And today, I am a ICP certified Police Captain for Shreveport PD. On May 25, 2020, lest we forget, mister George Floyd with a knee on his neck cried out ‘I cant breath.’ I believe that day, by divine providence, Mr. Floyd uttered those words but was expressing the sentiment of every American,” said Knapp.
“I stand here today to say I can’t breathe, when we as black men leave home and don’t know if we will return to our families alive or safe. I can’t breathe, when police officers have stopped community policing and building relationships with their citizens and have to come home to patrol bullies with guns and badges. I can’t breath, when our vote is being disenfranchised by not allowing council members to put our community concerns on their council agenda. I can’t breath, when at election time our black communities are being flooded with political money , buying our votes for less than a backyard picnic. I can’t breathe, but I stand here today representing black, white, hispainic, asain, or whatever color you may be, and say we gon’ breathe.”
“We’re gonna breathe when there is diversity training in the Minden Police Department starting with the Chief down to the last police hire. We’re going to breath when each council vote is respected and acted upon. We’re going to breath when our community tax dollars and grants for infrastructure flows through all the communities of this city equally.
“I said we gonna breathe, when being pulled over by the police officer, we’ll be informed what we’re being stopped for, and not just asked for our driver’s license and registration and profiling us first. We’re going to breathe,when we can have a citizen review board for the Minden Police Department that reflects the makeup of our city where our citizens can express their concerns when their rights have been violated. I’m going to breath.”
It was also revealed at the rally that the attorney Citizens for Justice retained is Dr. Charles Jones. To list some notable highlights from his career, when Jones was in the Louisiana Senate, as chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, he was “the lead negotiator in the settlement resulting in the desegregation of the Louisiana Judiciary’s District Courts, Appeal Courts and the Supreme Court of Louisiana,” according to his biography. Jones was also an attorney who served as counsel for co-defendant in a high profile case of the State of Nevada versus O. J. Simpson and C. J. Stewart.”
Near the end of the rally, Jones was the one to swear in District A’s returning Councilman, Wayne Edwards.
“Today I’m not campaigning, but what I want to do is thank the group of people that worked extremely hard, and when I say extremely hard, I mean extremely hard, and making it possible for the Governor of the State of Louisiana to appoint me to this position. And there are a couple of things that I can assure you. Your trust has not been misplaced, not at all. I’m here to do a job, and rest assured that’s going to happen. We’re gonna do the right thing,” said Edwards.
“I got to say, that because of politics, you know this as well as I do, puts a strain on the family. I appreciate my wife and my family. I’m looking to do a good job and if you need me I got your back. Don’t ever worry about that. And I thank those of you who know me. I’m not sitting up here just talking, we’re going to the right thing 100% of the time. I thank you.”
At the end of the rally, Rev. Dr. Robbie D. Williams asked those present to join together on Tuesday morning outside the Minden Courthouse as a show of support for Councilman Terika Williams-Walker.
On Tuesday morning at 9:30, our Councilwoman goes to court, and we’ve already answered the lawsuit. This is what we need you to do. We need you to show up at the courthouse over here at 9 o’clock on Tuesday morning,” said Williams.
“We need the courthouse to know that we stand behind our elected Council Member. Flood the street. Block the traffic if you have to. But we need to show up.”
“When they can’t take your rights away at the ballot box, they’ll take it away at the courthouse. You need to show up at the courthouse since now they’ve determined they ca’;t beat us at the ballot box. Stand up for justice on Tuesday morning at 9 o’clock. That’s how you get it done, that’s how you change Minden. We gotta stand together.”
Councilman Vincen Bradford of District C asked for the citizens’ support as well.“I’d like to thank everyone for coming out to this joyous occasion. We’re here to fight for you, so please help us to fight for us. Let’s do the right thing. I’m not much on words right now, but would you please come out and support Mrs. Walker on Tuesday morning, and hope that you won’t have to come out on the seventh and support me,” said Bradford.