July 21, 2009
I live in Paris. I even know the Lamar County judges and I can say with complete honesty that I know each and every one of them to be fair and without prejudice.
It is almost bizarre that our town is becoming a playing field for the Black Panthers and the KKK.
On the day of the protests, people are bused in from Dallas/Ft. Worth, license plates from out of state are seen more than is usual, there are lots of people we have never seen before marching up and down our streets.
How did we get into this situation? I don't know of anyone in Paris who is really prejudiced. Our community has gone to a lot of effort to have open communication around the issue of racial relations.
Granted, we have our problems.
I am not the mother of a boy who was killed and whose death, arrest of two young white men and the activities of the Lamar County Attorney's office spurred the protest on Tuesday. I can not even imagine her pain and her loss. But I really do not think the death of this young man was race related. I think it was a terrible, terrible tragedy. I am so sorry for her and her family's loss. And I am dismayed that people who do not live here are using this tragedy as a platform for hate. The people I met on Tuesday from the Black Panther group and the protesters from Dallas were very nice. They were cordial, allowed me to photograph them, and let me sit next to them when I got tired. I really think I would like them and they would like Paris if given the chance.
I also think that the law enforcement representatives bent over backwards to be respectful of both camps. There were officers from the State Police, Texas Rangers, City of Paris and the Lamar County Sheriff's Department. The officers were black and white, male and female, young and old. They conducted themselves in a polished and professional manner.
Things didn't go quite as planned. The Black Panthers moved their speeches from the Courthouse parking lot to the fountain in the middle of the square. What appeared to be three skin heads rode up on their bicycles with some sort of a flag draped around them and shouted at the assembled group from across the street.
Things could have gone bad but the planning and the alertness of the law enforcement contingent averted any real catastrophe.