A rally that hopes to unite the community with law enforcement will be held Saturday evening at Summit Town Hall.

Summit police officer Antonette Quinn and Rep. Daryl Porter Jr. are organizing the 5 p.m. event, dubbed “Standing in the Gap for Unity and Equality.” Organizers are asking attendees to wear face masks.

The rally comes as demonstrations calling for social justice and criminal justice reform take place all over the world in the aftermath of the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, including a rally that hundreds recently attended in McComb.

Floyd’s death picked a scab covering the relationship between law enforcement and the African American community, with many calling for community policing and other reforms.

“Citizens have been reaching out to our local law enforcement, hoping that they will speak out with solutions around more effective community policing. We felt it in our hearts to listen and act accordingly,” Quinn said.

She said her experience as a law enforcement officer and a Black woman gives her a unique perspective to the issues facing police officers and the Black community.

“Even though I work in law enforcement, I am still a Black woman when I wake up in the morning,” she said.

Quinn said Southwest Mississippi is fortunate to not have experienced police violence that other communities have seen, but she added that both residents and police shouldn’t be complacent about the issue.

“Although we haven’t seen these types of tragedies happening in our communities, it doesn’t mean that we should turn a blind eye or stray away from having meaningful conversations about how we can improve relationships between law enforcement and the community,” she said. “I believe that preparation is prevention.”

Porter said he’s glad to see Quinn stepping up to organize the event.

“I am extremely proud of officers like Antonette who are leading the charge to coordinate efforts that lead to actionable takeaways,” he said. “I think it is critical that our community uses its synergy to be a part of the solution, because a community is only as strong as the voices within it.”

Porter also noted a recent spate of gun violence in his district that has claimed the lives of residents, including young black men, and said he hopes the rally addresses that problem as well.

“We hope to do the same thing at this rally as well, to bring awareness,” he said.

Porter said the Legislature is about to wrap up its session and noted that deadlines to introduce new legislation, including measures that could address police reforms, have already passed.

Still, he said guidance on any such proposals should be based on feedback from communities.

“On the state level, we’ll address it here, but of course we have to address it on the local level,” he said. “I believe it’s important for us to come together as a community and as a county to address these issues, to put procedures and policies in place that have actions.” 

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