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Protests seeking justice for Emmett Till held in multiple locations in Bowling Green Saturday, with extra police presence following threats

Alana Watson

Protests seeking justice for Emmett Till were held in different parts of Bowling Green Saturday, despite violent threats from an unknown party.

A number of organizations including the Black Lawyers for Justice, the New Black Panthers, the Veterans Association of African American Descendants, and Till family members held demonstrations outside the Warren County Justice Center and the home of Carolyn Bryant Donham.

In 1955, Donham accused the 14-year-old boy of whistling at her in a Mississippi grocery store. The allegations led to the abduction, torture, and murder of Till.

Last month, the Bowling Green Daily News reported that Donham had moved to Bowling Green over the summer. The change of location came after the resurfacing of an outstanding arrest warrantfor Donham was discovered in the basement of a Mississippi courthouse.

Early Saturday morning, Bowling Green Police sent out a public safety alert to residents stating a threat had been made towards the groups behind the protest. The message said “an unknown person threatens to shoot protesters and anyone helping protesters.”

As a result, a number of activities planned in parts of Bowling Green were cancelled Saturday, including the city's annual Christmas parade.

The Bowling Green-Warren County chapter of the NAACP previously said it would not take part in Saturday's protests.

There was a heavy police presence at all protest locations with many roads in Downtown Bowling Green and around Shive Lane blocked off.

Emmett Till’s cousin, Priscilla Sterling, came to Bowling Green from Jackson, Mississippi, to be apart of the protests.

Outside the Warren County Justice Center, she said that Carolyn Bryant, now Carolyn Donham, has never seen justice for her role in Till’s killing.

“And because white supremacy held a position, it helped these people get away with the murder and kidnapping of Emmett, my relative,” she said.

After the arrest warrant was discovered and the case was reopened, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict Donham.

During her speech, Sterling called on President Joe Biden, the United Nations, and people who have concerns for the United States to become involved and curtail racist actions that are happening in the U.S.

“This is not made up. This is why we can’t get justice from Carolyn Bryant. This is the reason Carolyn Bryant was never charged with Emmett Till’s murder,” Sterling said.

“It’s because of the white supremacy that continues to happen in the United States and our government for some reason isn’t doing anything about it.”

Sterling said Donham came to Kentucky from Mississippi to escape justice and that Donham can and should be charged for her involvement in Till’s murder.

“We still want Carolyn Bryant brought to justice. We want a trial. Even if she lays in a prison bed and they feed her, and she’s relaxed. She needs to be charged. It’s a duty. It’s a constitutional right. The law should be applied to her, too.”

At the end of the demonstration at the Warren County Justice Center, the group said they plan to file a lawsuit in federal court in Mississippi that says if the warrant on Donham is not served, then the justice system can’t serve any warrant because it would be a violation of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The 14th Amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection under the law.

Around 50 protesters, some armed with that appeared to be assault rifles and other firearms, held a protest outside the apartment where Donham currently lives along Shive Lanein Bowling Green.

One protester at the Justice Center was arrested earlier in the day for having an outstanding warrant in Ohio.

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Alana Watson is covering the workplace, economic opportunity and infrastructure issues for the ReSource from partner station WKU Public Radio in Bowling Green, KY.
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