Approximately 40 people marched and participated in an NAACP rally just outside Pembroke City Hall Monday night. The rally took place before and during the regular scheduled meeting of the Pembroke city council.
Protesters, consisting mostly of members of both the Bryan and Liberty County branches of the NAACP, spoke of police brutality accusations against newly-appointed Pembroke Police Department Chief Mark Crowe.
Chants of "Mark Crowe must go" broke out several times during the speaking portion and were chanted during their march up to city hall.
The march/rally stemmed from the incident on April 14 where protesters allege several white Bryan County Sheriff’s deputies, including Crowe, acted unjustly while arresting six members of the Williams family – a black family in Pembroke. The Williams’ family initially filed a lawsuit, claiming police brutality, but it since has been dropped. The family’s attorney, Sage Brown of Savannah, said he plans to pursue the case via the U.S. Justice Department.NAACP state conference president Edward DuBose said he would stand in as Crowe’s "proxy" to offer an apology to Tommy Lee Williams and Henrietta Williams that should have already been given. He also stated that the NAACP would not let this issue rest until justice was served by having Chief Crowe removed from office - even if that meant the Mayor of Pembroke, Judy Cook, had to step down from her seat.
Crowe denied any wrong doing and said the county’s attorneys have advised him to wait until court to make a full statement. Cook said the accusations against the city "make no sense," but also declined to comment further due to legal reasons.
Bryan County NAACP Chairman Dave Williams said the march was successful and he anticipates there will be another in the near future. He said he did not intend to single out Crowe. He said the intent of the meeting "was to call attention to the injustice of Crowe being appointed without any investigation (of the April 14 incident)."
Williams said the march was also conducted in order to shed light on "the lack of black administrators and principles in the Bryan County school system. Regardless of what has been said, the school system has made no effort toward this."
Williams said this is the first time he has not supported Mayor Cook, "and I still love and respect her. I just feel the need to speak on this injustice."
Pembroke resident Cindy Milloy said the rally outside the council meeting room was disruptive to the council meeting. She said Mayor Cook’s proclamation recognizing Myasthenia Gravis, a rare disease Milloy suffers from, could not be heard over the "Mark Crowe must go" chants.
"I am so disgusted with what happened," Milloy said. "It was uncalled for. Dave Williams told me this wasn’t about Mark Crowe, but all you could here inside the council room was people chanting his name. These people aren’t even from Pembroke. If you don’t find enough people here to support this, then what’s the point? Many people in Pembroke are disgusted by what the NAACP is doing to this town in the name of justice."
Milloy, who helps coordinate the city’s Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, says Crowe voluntarily sings at each event. She said Williams helps out as well by involving the local Boy Scout troop, "and this controversy is tearing this city apart – and there’s no reason for it."
- Michelle Seger contributed to this story.