By Angela Simpson Buckner
Special to the Jackson Advocate
Citizens in the Mississippi Delta who were in attendance for the “Justice in Mississippi for Peace Rally” in Indianola considers the event a step in the right direction. Their mission was to persuade the police department to release bodycam footage from the night of December 30, 2022 of Staff Sergeant Kelvin Franklin. Although that didn’t happen, they were able to speak face to face with Indianola Mayor Ken Featherstone who informed them they would have to make a formal request to the city attorney, which the group plans to do.
Although the peace rally ended smoothly, it didn’t start off that way. Upon arrival to the city courthouse for Franklin’s initial hearing, participants were met with obvious resistance by an Indianola Police Department officer who stopped them at the courtroom entrance and stated, “the only people allowed in court are the people who have to go before the judge.”
However, Franklin supporters were allowed to enter the courtroom minus their cellphones, or recording devices. The participants told the Jackson Advocate and The Mic Magazine they wanted to sit in the courtroom with Staff Sergeant Franklin to demonstrate their support.
Upon exiting the building to conduct a press conference, participants were once again approached by the Indianola Police Department, seemingly trying to stop the peaceful assembly. Lt. Irish Johnson told the group to vacate the premises, expressing he was given direct orders from Chief Ronald Sampson. Additional officers appeared to assist Lt. Johnson who reiterated to the group to leave or be arrested because they did not have a permit to congregate.
However, with the assistance of a Jackson Advocate representative who went to city hall to speak with Mayor Featherstone, the press conference was permitted. Featherstone clarified they were not trying to deny the group their constitutional right to freely assemble.
Chief Sampson was invited over to the press conference by The Mic Magazine, but declined. He did release a statement to a local indianola newspaper, The Enterprise Tocsin, maintaining actions by officer Capers in tasing Franklin were justified.
Staff Sgt. Franklin alleges that he was choked, kicked, and tased in the neck all while being handcuffed.
In video footage provided by the Franklin Family, Franklin can be heard crying out in pain while Officer Capers tells Staff Sgt. Franklin that he is “finna get it again.” Franklin is later tased again and told to put his hands behind his back and also to get up and walk. Franklin can be seen being carried away and placed in the back of a police car. Franklin said at some point of the arrest he was rendered unresponsive.
“When I went to Forrest General Hospital, they told me due to the repeated tasing in my neck area and body that I was extremely dehydrated and I told the officers I got one kidney. To know that Chief Sampson is calling this behavior justified has me wondering about who is in leadership at the Indianola Police Department. I want this handled before I go back on my tour because I don’t want this to happen to any other brothers in Indianola.
“Chief Sampson is also running around asking people if I left Camp Shelby without permission. I have always gotten permission to leave. I am filing a complaint and I want something done about this behavior.”
Franklin said he maintains his innocence and told the municipal court judge he wonders why his paperwork submitted to the courts does not match the paperwork he bonded out on.
According to Staff Sgt. Franklin, “I don’t understand how come the paperwork does not match up. What is really happening here? I went back to watch the video of being arrested and I didn’t even know the officer tased me as many times as he did.”
In the same article published in the Enterprise Tocsin it is quoted, “Sampson said he encourages anyone who wishes to file a formal complaint or come forward as a witness.”
According to Staff Sgt. Franklin’s aunt, Ruthie Franklin, “I have gone by the Indianola Police Department to speak to Chief Ronald Sampson several times about the police brutality inflicted on my nephew and the people at the Indianola Police Department constantly tell the Franklin family that he is not available. Chief Ronald Sampson is not telling the truth. He is not an honest police chief. I believe he has told all the people at the Indianola Police Department to ignore me and my family. I truly believe Chief Sampson enjoys what his officers have done to my nephew.
“We are calling for immediate termination of Chief Sampson and his officers who were involved in the arrest of my nephew and bodycam footage. If the Mayor of Jackson can write a letter to MBI requesting bodycam footage to be released for the family down there who lost their loved one, then Mayor Ken Featherstone can do the same thing, but he won’t do it.
“I think he is more concerned about painting pretty little hearts at the BB King Museum and black tie events. It shouldn’t take a rally of folks coming from out of town to see Mayor Featherstone face to face. All it tells me is that Mayor Featherstone and Chief Sampson think what happened to my nephew is not important. My nephew fights for this country and been fighting for 15 years, but he comes home to Indianola and is subject to police brutality.
“If my nephew is wrong, then he is wrong. I will tell him he is wrong, but whenever I see that video footage of him saying he only got one kidney it bothers me. It doesn’t seem to bother the powers that be in Indianola. What happened on that video never should have occurred.”
When asked if any local organizations in Sunflower County reached out to help release bodycam footage, Ruthie Franklin stated, “ Nobody tried to help us around here. It’s sad when you have to reach out to NAACP President of Washington County, Tarsha Parker, and the LOC, Kareem Muhammad, to help raise awareness about this situation.”
Charles Modley is the NAACP President of Sunflower County and the Franklin family believes Modley was aware of this alleged police brutality where he had over a month to call for a peace rally and bodycam footage, to no avail. The family questions his loyalty to the black people of Sunflower County.
Nevertheless, Local Organizing Committee Program Organizer of the South and Southwest Region, Kareem Muhammad stated, “We stand in solidarity with the Franklin family and those other families who have fallen victim of unjust treatment by law enforcement under this white supremacy system. Martin Luther King once said that in justice anywhere is injustice everywhere. The Local Organizing Committee along with all those who stand with us will not stop until change is made.”
The Justice in Mississippi Peace Rally had about 12-15 participants, including the Local Organizing Committee, NAACP of Washington County, the New Black Panther Party, Gloria Moton Easly, the Franklin Family and a gentleman who came all the way from Chicago to stand with the Franklin family and others who are demanding justice across the State of Mississippi.
The next peace rally will be set according to Staff Sgt. Franklin’s court date of Tuesday, February 28, 2023.