COFO Building Demolition Response

There's outrage from some about efforts to tear down one of Meridian's most historic buildings.

"Maybe there could be a protest," says Roscoe Jones, who's the founder of Freedom "64". It's the non-profit group that had taken on the task of restoring the old Fielder and Brooks Drug Store Building. During the 1960'S it housed the Council of Federated Organizations, also known as COFO. Jones says the threat of a possible protest about the demolition of the building has come from people in other areas who want to see the structure restored.

"It can go on as far as I'm concerned, but the consequences of this to this community is going to be devastating because I'm getting a lot of phone calls, and now people are wanting to personally get involved in this, and want to say that the last stand of the civil rights impact is going to be that building."

According to Jones, he's now in year two of a 35 year lease with the private citizen who owns the building. He says the first that he heard of the demolition plan was from our newscast. Early last year, he says his organization, Freedom "64", was given the green light for the restoration effort from a structural engineer whom it hired to survey the building.

"Even in the state that it's in now it still can be restored," says Jones.

According to him, the purpose for the restoration effort was to convert this building into an interpretive center/museum, which would house oral history accounts from local civil rights pioneers. However, with this new development, when or if that will happen is unknown.

"A lot of people have said that they will work with this project, but only if the community gets involved, and that's one of the problems; maybe it's my fault, but the community has not galvanized and I've tried to talk to individuals," says Jones.

At this time there's no official word on when the demolition will take place.

According to Roscoe Jones, most of the money that his organization raised for the effort has been spent to do preliminary work, such as hiring a structural engineer. If the building is demolished, he says the $210,000 grant that Freedom "64" received will be returned to the state.