A two-time Perry County, Miss., candidate for supervisor called on law enforcement to “start shooting … and shoot to kill” people who are protesting against racism and police brutality across the country following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn.
“Why are we allowing theses (sic) THUGS to do such damage to out (sic) city’s? (sic) What wrong with our country,” Clayton Howard Hinton, a white business owner who ran for District 4 Supervisor in the southeast Mississippi County as a Democrat in 2015 and then as a Republican in 2019, wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday evening. “This is a simple fix!!! Shoot theses (sic) THUGS, and move on. We are not to allow this in America.”
A white prosecutor in Madison County also drew attention to herself today for a comment she made on the Facebook page of Jeanine Carafello.
“Does (COVID-19) spread during massive street protests or just in bars and restaurants? Asking for a friend?” Carafello wrote.
“We can only hope the deadly strain spreads in riots!” replied Pamela Hancock, who is now in her second term as Madison County prosecuting attorney. Both women are attorneys at the Hancock Law Firm in Ridgeland.
‘Thinly Veiled Racist Code’
In a statement on Monday afternoon, Mississippi NAACP President Corey Wiggins condemned Hinton’s and Hancock’s remarks.
“It is dangerous and reckless for public officials to incite harm and violence toward protesters,” Wiggins said. “Black Americans across the country are tired of the injustices and the brutality that has disproportionately impacted our community at the hands of police officers and local elected officials.”
“We cannot be distracted by the willful ignorance of some that use thinly veiled racist code language or derogatory terms like, ‘thug,’” he continued. “We must focus our efforts on addressing the systemic racism that occurs in all of our institutions.”
The Mississippi Free Press was not able to get in touch with either Hinton or Hancock by press time Monday, but Hancock did tell Mississippi Today earlier that she “was not serious about wanting anyone to die” and that “the post was kind of a joke, and I was attempting to joke back.”
“Obviously, I did it very poorly. If you ask anybody that knows me, I don’t hold any ill will towards anyone or any group. I only try to be fair,” the Madison County prosecutor said.
Petal Mayor Apologizes, Then Joins Far-Right Group
In Petal, about an hour-and-a-half South of Madison County, protesters spent the weekend demanding the resignation of the town’s Republican mayor, Hal Marx, over remarks he made defending the officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck as he cried out that he could not breathe. Petal is in Forrest County, just west of Perry County. Marx previously defended the killing of Marc Davis, a black man who died in 2017 after a Petal Police officer shot him three times.
In a statement Saturday, Marx said he “apologized” that “my words were taken out of the context in which they were meant.”
“I admit that my comments on the recent tragic death of George Floyd were made in haste and not well-thought out or expressed,” said Marx, who last week tweeted, “If you say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing.”
In a raucous City Hall meeting last Thursday, all six Petal aldermen and numerous town residents called on the mayor to resign for his remarks, but Marx refused, and continued doing so Saturday.
“I cannot resign over something which I did not do. I did not make racist comments, and I have not mistreated anyone,” he said this weekend.
Yesterday, though, Marx joined a far-right Facebook group called “Mississippians Against the Lockdown” (whose members oppose COVID-19 social distancing and stay-at-home orders), where members repeatedly defend his actions. The page prominently features the Confederate ‘X’ portion of the Mississippi state flag as its profile picture—a flag that Marx opposes changing.
In recent days, group members have made posts calling for military action against protesters, shared anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about billionaire Jewish philanthropist George Soros and the novel coronavirus.
Since the weekend, members of the group have also begun sharing the names and contact information of protesters who gathered outside Petal City Hall over the weekend to call for Marx’s removal.
“Everybody, welcome Petal Mayor Hal Marx to the group. With that last name you’d think Antifa would love him,” a page administrator wrote in a post yesterday, referring to antifascists, whom Marx often criticizes. “They don’t, we will!”
Dozens of members welcomed him, some praising him for his refusal to implement a mask-wearing policy in Petal like their neighbor city, Hattiesburg. One member encouraged him to “run for governor” because “this is a complete mess.” He ran for the Republican nomination for governor in 2019, but dropped out to care for his wife, who was ill at the time.
Only one Facebook group member expressed reservations about Marx.
“Maybe I don’t have all the information but from what I’ve heard about him lately … I’m not so sure about being associated with him,” member Ted Dempsey wrote.
“I wouldn’t blame you after the lies and slander being spread about me. I am a conservative and a believer in our constitution and original intent. I am not a racist, nor have I made any racist comments,” Marx replied to Dempsey. “Those who disagree with my views, label me as such just as they do all conservatives.”
Marx’s local critics include more than just conservatives, though.
‘I Was Wrong. My County Proved Me Wrong.’
Katherine Parker, a white conservative in neighboring Jones County, told the Mississippi Free Press on Monday evening that she sees Marx as a poor leader and that his comments were “ignorant” and “hatefully made.”
“There’s a time in our lives when we make mistakes that we’ve got to be humble enough to admit we were wrong and apologize and not stand in ignorance,” she said. “If you refuse the people you’re leading, if you refuse to listen, are you really a leader?”
Marx should have “had more information” if he was going to comment on what happened to George Floyd in Minnesota, Parker said, lamenting that he instead created more embarrassing headlines about her home state.
She said her heart is “breaking” over what is happening across the country. Deaths like Floyd’s, the protests nationwide and the response to those protests from law enforcement have made her reconsider her views, Parker said.
“My heart is breaking because I watched the video of him dying. And that man was murdered. That man was plain out murdered,” said Parker, who is 41 and voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
She said she now sees racism as a “systemic” problem across the country.
“Before all of this, I swore up and down that racism was dead or was dying and that we had progressed and were moving forward,” Parker said. “I can’t tell you how many friends of different colors and different parts of the rainbow I’ve apologized to. I was wrong. My country proved me wrong.”
The evangelical Jones County resident also said she is “kind of mad at churches and at Christian communities” for not doing enough to help people who deal with not only race-based oppression, but a whole host of issues, ranging from poverty to health care.
“We’re sitting on our asses while the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, and telling them to go to church. … Are we feeding the poor?,” said Parker, who is a peer support specialist for children with mental health issues. “Jesus said, if you love my people, you feed my sheep. Well, there’s a line a mile long at the welfare office.”