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Protests against police and racism spread across Mississippi

(AP) — Thousands of people protested police brutality and racial injustice in Mississippi’s capital city on Saturday, one of a series of protests across the state.
Hundreds also gathered in Starkville and Gulfport, while demonstrators continued to call for the resignation of Petal Mayor Hal Marx over comments he made about the death of George Floyd. In Oxford, the University of Mississippi athletic department held a private event.
In Jackson, protesters spoke outside the governor’s mansion, one of hundreds of rallies nationwide organized after the death of Floyd in Minneapolis and of others who died at the hands of police.
“When Mississippi changes, America changes. When America changes, the world changes. And we’re about to get moving on change,” organizer Calvert White told the crowd, according to the Clarion Ledger.
Among those in the crowd were Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mike Espy.
The march traveled past Jackson’s city hall and the state capitol. Marchers stood in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time that an officer knelt on Floyd’s neck.
One demand that got loudest cheers was demand to remove all confederate symbols including the battle emblem from state flag, which was flying at the governor’s mansion and state capitol on Saturday.
Marchers also demanded prosecutors reopen the case of Ricky Ball, a black man shot by police in Columbus in 2015. Republican Attorney General Lynn Fitch dismissed the charges last week. They’re also seeking the resignation of Petal Mayor Hal Marx, who dismissed Floyd’s death on social media by writing in part “if you can talk, you can breathe.” Marx has apologized, but has dismissed calls to step down, including those made by aldermen. Another in a series of protests was held Saturday in Petal.
In Starkville, a line of hundreds marched down Main Street. Organizer Jala Douglas told the Starkville Daily News she was overwhelmed by the turnout.
“Way more people than I expected, this is beautiful,” she said.
In Gulfport, people participated in a unity rally that included ministers, city officials and Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania.
Marcus and Denise Whitfield said they brought their young son, Caiden, to support unity and change, but also to support police officers who respect those in the community.
“We want to show unity among one another to not only support the fight for justice for black lives but for all lives that matter,” Marcus Whitfield told the Sun Herald. “Yes, we are out here fighting for our black lives but also for every life as well.”
“We are paying attention to black boys right now because that is the house that’s burning,” he said. “I think if black people knew that a fair justice would be served, then you wouldn’t be seeing the riots and protests that have come to a boiling point in some communities.”
The Ole Miss athletics department told The Oxford Eagle that it held its private event because of fears of spreading the COVID-19 respiratory disease.
“Today, we gather here, to put a point on the scoreboard for justice,” said women’s basketball coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin. “Today, we gather here in honor of freedom seekers past, in solidarity with those justice seekers present. Today, we gather here to say unapologetically, black lives matter.”