Protest Held at City Council Meeting

By: Rachel Alig Email
By: Rachel Alig Email

Protesters displayed signs of discontent at the Meridian City Council meeting Tuesday. They object to the forced retirement of Meridian's police chief and the hiring of another person from from out-of-town.

However, the city council approved the appointment of former Petal police chief, Lee Shelbourn, and the appointment of a new fire chief.

The controversy came from, according to concerned citizens, how Meridian police chief, Benny Dubose, who is black, was asked to resign, and the decision to hire another chief from out-of-town. Shelbourn is white.

Several members of the community protested inside the council chambers with signs. Dubose was the first black police chief in Meridian.

Shelbourn was approved on a 3-2 vote of the city council. Mary Perry and Jesse Palmer, Sr., who are black, voted against his confirmation. The other three, Bobby Smith, Barbara Henson, and Dr. George Thomas, who are white, voted to confirm Shelbourn.

The council also voted on a new fire chief, Anthony Clayton, a veteran of the Meridian Fire Department. Clayton is black and replaces Jeff Homan, who is white. The fire chief vote was unanimous.

As the new fire chief, Clayton said he's ready to go to work.

"I'm just fair, straight up. Do the job, show up for work, have a chance," said Clayton.

Shelbourn will assume his duties as chief of police Sept. 30. He said, no matter where you are, it's respecting the job of a police officer is what truly matters.

"We're a brotherhood. Whether you're a policeman in Meridian or a policeman in Petal, you're a brotherhood and you know you're in it," Shelbourn said.

After both appointees were approved, Ward 1 city councilman, Dr. George Thomas, asked each if they thought race was behind their selection.

"I see no race in it. Firefighting is firefighting," said Clayton. "I'm here because she felt like I was the best person."

"I treat everyone firm, fair, and consistently," said Shelbourn.

Both of the new appointees said they are just hoping Meridian gives them a chance to prove themselves.


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