EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a statement from Marcello Banes, Chairman of the Newton County Board of Commissioners, which was issued Wednesday morning.
On May 7, 2020, my 16-year-old daughter sent me a video of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. I must admit that prior to this text, I had not heard about this story. As I watched Mr. Arbery get gunned down and stagger to his death, a strong sense of sadness came over me. As more information became known of this horrific event, my sadness, admittedly, turned to anger. No sooner than I could temper my outrage of the Arbery case, I witnessed the video of the killing of George Floyd and the unrest that followed. For the record, I am outraged at the lack of action of the officials in Brunswick and the police officers’ actions in Minneapolis. As a black man, I am tired of seeing this over and over again. As Chairman of Newton County, it is my duty to ensure that this does not happen in my community.
I have worked diligently to handle the affairs of the County, and also have vigorously and without ceasing, worked to stop any social injustices that attempt to plague our community. In my duties, I am in constant communication with Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown and Covington Police Chief Stacy Cotton and received assurances that the Newton County Sheriff Department and the City of Covington Police Department does not celebrate nor tolerate the actions or behavior that this nation witnessed in Minneapolis.
On Monday, following the publicized protest events that occurred in Atlanta over the weekend, some citizens in Newton County voiced strong concerns about safety and potential unrest in our community. Ironically, on that same day, my office received several phone calls from outside groups wanting to protest in our community. While there are concerns about protesting in our community, we must be reminded that the same constitutional provision that protects the freedom of speech also protects the right to peaceful protest. However, protest without an eye on a solution is fruitless. To that end, my spirit leads me, again, to call for community prayer for unity, guidance and understanding.
I am asking for all public officials, community leaders, ministers, mothers, fathers and people who love this community and believe in the power of prayer to join me for seven days of prayer beginning on Thursday, June 4, through Wednesday, June 10, at 6 a.m. each day for prayer for the Floyd and Arbery families. I also want us to pray for guidance for our national, state and local public officials. I want us to pray for the protections of black men and women who are encountered by individuals that don’t know the meaning of protect and serve. I want us to pray for the protection of our law enforcement who take an oath to protect all, even those that wish them harm. I want us to pray against the spirit of division. I want us to pray against the spirit of racism in all forms. We must definitely pray for our young people. Most of all, I want us to pray for peace, understanding, respect and tolerance among our Newton County community and other communities around the nation.
I am always reminded that faith without works is dead. While I believe that prayer answers all, we must follow with action. I realize that I must lead by example. I am asking for your help. In the upcoming weeks, I will call on community leaders to join me for a think tank to come up with preventive measures to keep our community unified and progressing.