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Local NAACP chapter won't join protest against Emmett Till accuser living in Bowling Green

Till in a photograph taken by his mother on Christmas Day, 1954
Creative Commons
Till in a photograph taken by his mother on Christmas Day, 1954

The Bowling Green-Warren County NAACP says it won’t participate in a protest this weekend seeking justice for Emmett Till.

The 14-year-old African-American teen from Chicago was abducted, tortured, and murdered after allegedly whistling at a white woman in a Mississippi grocery store in 1955. Till was visiting relatives in the Magnolia State when the incident occurred.

The Bowling Green Daily News has reported that his accuser, Carolyn Bryant Donham, now lives in Warren County.

On Saturday, Dec. 3, members of a group called the Veterans Association of African-American Descendants plan to march outside the justice center downtown.

While the the Bowling Green-Warren County NAACP chapter supports "long-overdue justice" for Till, President Ryan Dearbone said the civil rights organization won’t join what he called a "fringe group".

“Because of our unfamiliarity with them and some of the things that may have happened in some of their previous protests, we feel it’s better to err on the side of caution and not work with them on this," Dearbone told WKU Public Radio. "Our focus is people currently being discriminated against in our community that need our immediate attention. That’s where we can do the most good.”

In June, almost 70 years after Till’s death, an outstanding arrest warrant for Donham was discovered in a Mississippi courthouse basement.

In August, a grand jury in Mississippi declined to indict Donham on charges of manslaughter and kidnapping related to Till’s death. Nobody has ever been held criminally responsible for what happened to Till.

In 1955, Donham’s then-husband, Roy Bryant, and J.W. Milam, were charged in Till's death, but acquitted by an all-white jury. Both men later admitted to the murder during an interview.

The Veterans Association of African-American Descendants says its members intend to be armed at Saturday’s protest. Local law enforcement groups are aware of that detail.

“We’ve talked with the organizer at great length and don’t feel there will be any safety issues with their group or with citizens in this city," said Bowling Green Police Department Officer and spokesperson Ronnie Ward.

A community Christmas parade is also being held in Bowling Green on the day of the planned protest, but Ward said those crowds should be cleared from the morning parade before the protest is scheduled to begin at noon.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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