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Columbus, Georgia: 8,000 march against police brutality, racism
Protesters demand justice for Kenneth Walker, killed by cops in 2003
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 69/No. 4January 31, 2005

lead article
Columbus, Georgia: 8,000 march
against police brutality, racism
Protesters demand justice for
Kenneth Walker, killed by cops in 2003
Militant/Bill Arth
Thousands demonstrated in Columbus, Georgia, January 15—on anniversary of Martin Luther King’s birthday-to demand justice for man killed by cops in December 2003 and to condemn anti-Black discrimination.

COLUMBUS, Georgia—More than 8,000 people marched January 15 from the Civic Center here to the Columbus Government Center to demand justice for Kenneth Walker and to protest cop brutality and anti-Black discrimination.

Walker, a 39-year-old African American, was killed Dec. 10, 2003, by two bullets to the head fired by Muscogee County deputy sheriff David Glisson. Walker was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by Glisson and other deputy sheriffs from the local police Special Response Team. The cops claimed they were looking for drug dealers who they suspected would be armed. But the police officers did not find any incriminating evidence against the four men nor did they provide any plausible explanation as to how Walker was shot dead. Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson called the shooting a “tragedy.”

Glisson was subsequently fired from the police department. On November 23, however, a grand jury decided not to indict him after deliberating for about 40 minutes.

Attorneys for Walker’s family filed a civil lawsuit the week prior to the march here, seeking $100 million in damages from the city of Columbus, Glisson, and Johnson, the country sheriff.

Warren Beaulah, Daryl Ransom, and Anthony Smith—the other men in the vehicle where Walker was killed—also filed a civil suit in U.S. District Court January 10 charging that their constitutional rights were violated and seeking damages of $3.5 million.

The men were stopped as they drove down Interstate 185 on that fatal night a little more than a year ago. The three survivors told the press later that the police ordered them to get out of the vehicle with their hands in the air and get on the ground as officers advanced, guns drawn. In the ensuing moments, Walker was shot twice in the head. Beaulah, Ransom, and Smith were then handcuffed and searched. The police found no weapons or drugs in their possession or in the car. The men were taken to the sheriff’s department where they were held in separate cells and questioned by deputies. No charges were ever filed against them.

The march and rally, on the anniversary of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., were called by a coalition of civil rights and religious organizations. These include the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Concerned Black Clergy, Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, the National Action Network, Rainbow Coalition/PUSH, and the Nation of Islam.

Speakers included Democratic Party politician Jesse Jackson, Joseph Lowery of the SCLC, and others representing the sponsoring organizations.

Days before the march, one of its organizers, Rev. Wayne Baker of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, had predicted that “several hundred” would attend. Instead, thousands turned out, including protesters from Albany, Atlanta, and other cities in Georgia. The big majority of the predominantly Black marchers, however, came from the Columbus area and the towns in Alabama just across the river. This is significant, since Columbus is a relatively small city of about 185,000 people.

In his speech to the rally, Baker demanded a new grand jury be convened in the case.

“Last week statements were made that only a couple of people in Columbus, Georgia, were making a lot of noise about nothing,” said Cheryl Walker, the widow of Kenneth Walker, addressing the crowd. “By your presence here today, we have proved them wrong.”

On January 11, an all-white demonstration of 150 people in support of Glisson had been held at the same location.

Germeka Harvey, 25, told the Militant she came with a friend and their kids “to see that justice be served, because it wasn’t served.”

“I came for Kenny Walker,” said Joshua Maddox, 13. “It’s important to be here.” He said there was a big discussion about the case among students and teachers at his school.

“I came because I want this killing to stop, to support a brother and his family,” said Dr. Andoh, 62, a biologist in Albany, Georgia, who is originally from Ghana. “I know he was killed because of profiling. The Black man in America is like a dog.”

“People need to know that prejudice is alive and well,” said Josie Duffy, 17. “We have a long way to go.”

Renee Benson, 25, added: “I’m here to find out how I can solve the problem of the unjust system.”

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