Protesters march to the site where James Anderson was beaten and run over… (Rogelio V. Solis, Associated…)
Reporting from Jackson, Miss. — More than 500 people, including clergymen, elected officials and mothers pushing strollers, gathered here Sunday to denounce the killing of an African American auto plant employee in what authorities say was a racially motivated hate crime.
The slaying of James C. Anderson initially attracted little notice outside the immediate area, but since a security camera recording of the June 26 incident was broadcast nationally last week, the case has drawn coast-to-coast attention.
Anderson, 49, was beaten and run over in the parking lot of a motel. Prosecutors say the 5 a.m. attack was committed by a group of white teenagers from nearby Brandon, Miss. Two 18-year-olds have been charged in the case. Deryl Dedmon, the alleged driver of the green pickup that ran over Anderson, is charged with murder and remains jailed; bond was set at $800,000. John A. Rice, originally charged with murder, now faces a charge of simple assault. He was freed on $5,000 bail.
"There is a lot of general appall over what took place here," said Ronnie C. Crudup Sr., bishop of New Horizons Church near the motel where Anderson was attacked. "We wanted to get well-minded people, both black and white, together to do something to support this family and this country. This is not indicative of where Mississippi is today."
With a police escort, Sunday's diverse crowd marched from the church to the motel singing, "We Shall Overcome." As the sun set, occupants of the motel looked on as the group gathered and Rabbi Valerie Cohen of Beth Israel Congregation and Pastor Hosea Hines of Christ Tabernacle Church led the group in a moment of prayer.
Rims Barber, 75, a civil rights activist who first came to Jackson during the summer of 1964, said: "I'm not surprised [this happened] but I'm angry. I'm glad that this group, that looks the way it does — rich/poor, black/white, male/female, gay and straight — is here."
Winston Thompson III, a lawyer for the Anderson family, said the case remained under investigation and was scheduled to be presented to a grand jury in a couple of weeks. In all, Thompson said, seven teenagers were in the two vehicles involved in the attack, and "if the facts allow the district attorney to indict and prosecute everyone, he is going to do it. He's looking at everyone."
Hinds County Dist. Atty. Robert Shuler Smith has said racial slurs were used during the attack. "This was a crime of hate," he told CNN last week. "Dedmon murdered this man because he was black."
But an attorney for Dedmon said during a court hearing in July that he had seen nothing to back up the "racial allegations," the Associated Press has reported. And Rice's lawyer, Samuel Martin, suggested at a bond hearing last month that Rice had no knowledge of any plan to indiscriminately attack a black man.
Pastor Brian Richardson of Castlewoods Baptist Church attended Sunday's rally and said his son had attended high school with Dedmon. "The only difference between this group and the Ku Klux Klan is that the Klan used hoods of cloth," Richardson said. "This group used hoods of steel."
Leaders of Sunday's event urged attendees to talk to their children, their co-workers and their classmates to prevent further hate crimes in the city.
"If we don't tell what is right to our children, someone else will tell their version of the truth," Crudup said. "I challenge everyone to talk to somebody different every day for the rest of this month about this. We must not forget."