Citing his First Amendment right to free speech, Kenneth Stokes, the Jackson, Miss., city councilman who suggested that people throw projectiles at suburban cops, did not back down from his incendiary comments during a press conference Sunday — although he did “clarify” his recent statement urging Jackson residents to throw “rocks, bricks and bottles” at police.
“My position was I get with the black leadership and see what suggestions they have. I said as my suggestion — it would be bricks, bottles and rocks.” Officials in Mississippi have called for an investigation of his remarks, but so far they have not attracted the attention of the Obama Justice Department.
Stokes, a city councilman from Ward 3, strongly objects to the fact that police from adjacent cities and towns often chase criminals into Jackson, which he says endangers the community.
During the presser, he played the race card by pointing out that the city of Jackson is overwhelmingly black, while the municipalities outside Jackson are majority white. Stokes characterized those officers as “just thugs with guns and badges,” and said he has called for a federal investigation for what he repeatedly called “unlawful practices” by police.
“Race is a factor in the blatant disregard for the public safety of innocent children and elderly citizens in unlawful chases by outside jurisdictions through the interceding neighborhoods of Jackson, Mississippi,” Stokes said. “We have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the increase in incidents of unlawful chases through the streets of Jackson, Mississippi, by outside jurisdictions putting citizens of Jackson in harms way despite repeated attempts… being made to end the unlawful practices.”
He proceeded to make a flawed analogy: “You cannot go as a police officer in Jackson to Reno, Nevada, and say I’m just gonna go arrest people for jaywalking. You can’t tell me these police officers don’t understand the word, ‘jurisdiction.’ They know that they’re out of their jurisdiction. They do not have the authority coming here and do the things they’re doing.”
Actually, police department pursuit policies within a state vary from department to department. The city of Jackson adopted a no-chase policy for misdemeanors or shoplifting crimes after it paid high-dollar settlements stemming from police chases that left innocent people injured. Nearby Richland has a “permissive policy,” meaning that an officer can decide if a chase is warranted, although a supervisor can call off that pursuit.
After Richland officers chased suspects into Jackson three times in one week last April, Richland Police chief W.R. James insisted that his officers would “continue to go into Jackson or wherever a criminal suspect leads them.”
“We just don’t know of any other way to do it right now and to maintain law and order,” James said. “If these folks would abide by the rules, then we wouldn’t have these discussions.”
Regardless, Stokes called such officers “lawless thugs” coming into the city to endanger “the children, the elderly and the citizens.”
When asked if he thought his speech was protected by the First Amendment, the fiery city councilman replied, “There’s no question that Kenneth Stokes is a citizen of the United States of America and I have same free speech as other citizens in the United States of America and I will always exercise my right to free speech. So If anyone says something contrary to that, they’re just a damn liar.”
Stokes ended the presser by calling Rankin County Sheriff Bryan Bailey a “dumb bastard,” the Clarion-Ledger reported.
Asked what he thinks about those comments, Bailey said “the citizens of Rankin County elected me to keep them safe and that’s what I intend to do.”
He said he has the utmost respect for all of the elected leaders in the city of Jackson — except for Stokes. He also noted that he supports the Sheriff’s office and police department in Jackson 100%.
“They started this, we didn’t. They came over here and committed a crime,” Bailey said of suspects chased by law enforcement into Jackson’s city limits. “In my opinion, Kenneth Stokes represents everything that’s wrong with Jackson and why it’s going downhill. His mentality — he said this is racism? Yeah, it is racism, against every officer, every deputy, anybody else that bleeds blue.”
Stokes insisted he wasn’t trying to encourage people to take action but wouldn’t elaborate when asked what residents should do with the rocks, bricks and bottles he had encouraged them to pick up.
Bailey had his own suggestion. “I challenge him (Stokes) to cross this river, and I’ll drive my own car over there and let him throw a rock at me. I’ll have him picking up trash for years.”