A 70-year-old Black woman was allegedly forcefully arrested on Wednesday in Petal, Mississippi — the small town run by the mayor who notably defended the police officers accused of either murdering or playing a role in the alleged murder of George Floyd.
“If you can say you can’t breathe, you’re breathing,” Mayor Hal Marx said via Twitter. “If you can talk you can breathe,” he added later that day on Facebook. “Think about that before rushing to judgement.”
Lorraine Bates has been protesting Marx every day since, and she quickly became a thorn in the side of local elected officials.
“When I protest, I have to use my walker or my wheelchair,” she recently told the local board of aldermen. “The sidewalk is so bad that it was tripping my walker over and me, too.”
“That sidewalk was just too dangerous for me,” she added.
Her pursuit of justice over the mayor’s George Floyd comments quickly led to parallel activism for infrastructure repair — perhaps city government’s most critical and basic function. But progress on that front has been slow.
Despite promises from the mayor and alderman, the city has yet to make the necessary repairs. Bates, who has allegedly been warned by police about her transportation method, has continued to walk in the street to get where she needs to go.
On Wednesday morning, she was cited for impeding traffic and resisting arrest after admittedly walking in the street again.
“She has no other way to travel and the sidewalks are not passable for her because she has to walk with a walker,” her attorney Matt Lawrence said in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. “She has brought up this issue to the city before and most recently two weeks ago in a long and detailed statement to the mayor, Hal Marx, and the board of aldermen. They acknowledged this danger and said that they would be repairing the sidewalk immediately, which they have not done. She was on her way to Corner Market in Petal when she was stopped by two cop cars.”
After being told to get out of the street, Bates allegedly refused and eventually laid down there, police told the Hattiesburg American.
Lawrence claims his client was hurt and denied her right to counsel:
She was arrested and drug to the cop car, despite the fact that there were at least four officers who could have carried her to the car,” he said. “She told me they flung her around like a rag doll and hit her head on the car’s door jam. Once she was at the police station, she was not allowed to speak with me, her attorney, despite the fact that she asked to do so. I was present at the station and had demanded to speak with her. The officer simply turned his back on me and walked away after saying he didn’t know if I was actually her attorney.
After the arrest, Bates requested medical attention and was taken directly from the police station to a nearby hospital. Bates was not booked in the local jail.
“They did not inform me that she was being sent to the emergency room,” Lawrence added. “I did not have any knowledge of what was going on.”
Her attorney said he later met with her and that legal options are being considered.
“I saw her earlier this afternoon in the hospital, and she is bruised and banged up with a bad headache,” Lawrence continued. “But she should be just fine in no time. Thanks everyone for your outpouring of support for her. She told me to tell you all that she loves and appreciates you! Believe me, there are many legal experts working on this who are going to do everything we can to ensure that justice is served.”
[image via screengrab/WLOX; video courtesy Matt Lawrence]
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