Stonewall, MS residents celebrate the life of community horseman, call for justice
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Politics and Activism

Stonewall, MS residents celebrate the life of community horseman, call for justice

Residents of a small Mississippi town call for justice against police brutality

Stonewall, MS residents celebrate the life of community horseman, call for justice
Quinta Goines

Residents and supporters gathered in Stonewall, Mississippi, Saturday evening to honor the life of Johnathan Sanders and call for justice with a candlelight vigil and march through the community.

Hundreds of supporters participated in the ceremony and gathered at the Stonewall Baseball Field, holding signs calling for justice to be served.

Community members said Sanders was exercising his racehorse in the residential community when he was confronted by a police officer.

Sanders, 39, died between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Wed., July 8, in one of his cousin’s yards where he came in contact with the officer.

Community members said they were never surprised to see Sanders exercising his horse, especially since he was preparing to race it at the Neshoba County Fair later this month in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

“He would bring his horses over here and ride them for everybody in the community,” Titus Miller, Sanders’ cousin, said. “It didn’t matter, white or black, it wasn’t a race thing with him.”

On Saturday, supporters gathered at the baseball field and marched the route that Sanders frequently walked his horse, even passing the scene where he died.

Kirby Pough of Quitman, Mississippi, organized the event. In the days leading up to the event, she and community leaders met in an effort to make sure the demonstrations were peaceful and nonviolent.

Pough said she organized the event to give the people suffering from Sanders’ death a chance to stand up for justice, and she wants the rest of the world to see people taking a stand against police brutality.

“We are not going to stand for police brutality,” she said. “I just want everyone to stand up for their rights and what they believe in.”

The weekend’s events attracted people from various parts of Mississippi and West Alabama, but Miller wants more people to get involved in the call for justice because police brutality is getting worse.

“It just wasn’t right for him to die the way he did,” Miller said. “It was three non life threatening methods he [the officer] could have used in the situation: his taser, his spray, or his walkie-talkie to call for backup.”

In addition to the call for justice, Miller planned a daylong celebration for Sunday in recognition of Sanders’ life and love for his community. People were invited to Stonewall to ride their horses, four-wheelers, walk and drive through the community.

Timothy Jones, 68, of Heidelberg, Mississippi, was in attendance on Saturday. Jones said it was important for him to be in attendance because he has experienced racism throughout his entire life. Jones said he was the first black student to integrate Heidelberg High School in Heidelberg, Mississippi, in 1966.

“This is my second time coming to Stonewall ever, but I felt it was important to support the people up here.” Jones said.

Details about the incident are limited as The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is working to thoroughly investigate the case. Sanders’ body is in Jackson, Mississippi, for an official autopsy.

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