The National Black Justice Coalition, the largest LGBTQ civil rights group representing the black community, has released a strongly worded statement condemning the actions of a small North Carolina town’s mayor and a police officer at the center of a violent arrest.
A young black gay man was arrested on May 4 outside a Waffle House in Warsaw, N.C., a small town in Eastern North Carolina’s Duplin County, an hour drive north of Wilmington.
The young man, Anthony Wall, 22, as well as other witnesses and advocates say the arrest was unnecessarily violent. Video of the arrest shows a police officer, Frank Moss, putting Wall in a chokehold, slamming him into a wall and later to the ground.
Wall and his attorneys say the incident began when Waffle House employees directed homophobic epithets at Wall. Police have simply alleged that Wall created a violent disturbance in the restaurant.
The National Black Justice Coalition (NJBC) is now calling on both the officer and the town’s mayor, A.J. Conners, to resign. The statement came this week after Conners, who is black, released a video defending his town’s police department.
“At this time, we’re asking you to eliminate the prejudging, allow the system that is in place to operate and do what it needs to do,” Conners said in the video statement. “We have a judicial system that works.”
Conners also took time in the video to ask members of the public to stop calling the town and police department. Activists have been urging community members to call the town and ask for charges to be dropped against Wall and for the officer to be held accountable.
“We ask you to allow the system to work,” Conners said. “We ask you to stop calling the police department. … At this time, let the system work and be patient with us as we go through this. I can assure you, this is not a racially motivated situation.”
NBJC decried Conners’ statement.
“Mayor Connors had an opportunity to stand up for one of his constituents — for justice — when he released his statement,” NBJC Executive Director David J. Johns said in a statement, saying Wall had been the “victim of racial and homophobic discrimination and harassment in one of his city’s public establishments.”
Johns said the Conners “squandered that opportunity by releasing an irresponsible and premature judgement of Mr. Wall. While details continue to unfold about the full incident, it is evident that the officer used excessive force as Mr. Wall was in fear, struggled to breathe, and called for a supervisor. I was hoping Mayor Connors would have rewatched both his own video and that of Anthony’s encounter with Warsaw police, listened to his constituents who have condemned his response and recanted his reprehensible statement; yet, to-date, that has not occurred.”
Johns also called Conners statements “biased” and “reckless” and said they “wreak of an elected official who does not understand the importance of ensuring that all of his constituents are served and have equal protection under the law.”
The national LGBTQ civil rights group is calling on the mayor and officer to resign, and they’ve promised not to stop trying to contact the city in order to make that happen.
“The National Black Justice Coalition joins other civil rights organizations in calling for the removal of Mayor Connors and Officer Frank Moss,” Johns said. “We will not back down from contacting the Mayor’s office nor the police department simply because they feel inconvenienced. We will exercise our rights to free speech and to assemble. We will demand justice, a fair investigation and transparency from all public servants, and we will continue our fight to eradicate racism and homophobia in this country.”