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Council nixes NAACP plans to demonstrate outside Cairo High School

Cairo Mayor Bobby Burns had the rare opportunity of casting a vote Monday night to break a tie vote and deny a permit application sought by the Grady County Chapter of the NAACP to conduct a demonstration in front of Cairo High School next week.
Councilmen Ernest Cloud and Lannis Thornton both voted to approve the permit while Councilmen James H. (Jimmy) Douglas and Bobby Gwaltney voted against. Councilman Jerry Cox, a part-time consultant for the Grady County School System, abstained.
John Monds appeared before the city council Monday night seeking the council’s approval for the “peaceful demonstration” planned to be held Monday, Dec. 5 on the sidewalk in front of the high school.
Monds said he was speaking on behalf of NAACP President Emma Fortner, who was out of town and unable to be present.
According to Monds, the demonstration was being held to bring attention to the recent firing of Cairo High School guidance counselor Cindy Williams by the Grady County Board of Education. Mrs. Williams, an African American, was terminated by the board on Tuesday, Oct. 25 following a hearing that lasted over six hours.
Monds told the city council that testimony given during the hearing was “incredible” and indicated “things going on within the school system” that the school board has not addressed.
“This will be a great service to the public to keep it in the public eye,” Monds said.
However, the timing of the proposed demonstration drew opposition from members of the council.
Councilman Douglas said he would not approve the requested 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. time frame, because of the traffic and congestion during the time when school ends for the day and students are dismissed.
“We’re not going to have you and 25 others on that sidewalk when school lets out. It’s an issue of safety,” Douglas said.
Cairo Police Chief Keith Sandefur, in a memo to the council, also opposed the requested time for the demonstration.
“The reason we picked that time was for the fact that parents, buses, will be coming and going. We wanted visibility to let the public know this issue is going on. Safety is a consideration, but this will be a peaceful demonstration on the sidewalk,” Monds said.
The NAACP representative also went on to say no one would be blocking the cross walk in front of the school and adults participating would know when to step aside and let students pass by.
After further clarification of where the demonstration was to take place Councilman Cloud offered a motion to approve the permit application. “I understand Councilman Douglas’ concern, but I’ve had a bad experience with the guidance department lately, so I offer a motion to grant permission to hold the demonstration,” Cloud said.
Councilman Thornton seconded Cloud’s motion and when called for a vote they both supported it.
After Mayor Burns broke the tie in voting down the application, no substitute motion was offered. Councilman Douglas also said he could support a permit for any other time other than the hours when school is opening and dismissing.

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