Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Mississippi Judge Accused of Striking Young Black Man, Then Yelling ‘Run, Nigger, Run!’

[Cross-posted at Hatewatch.]

A longtime local Justice Court judge in Canton, Miss., reportedly struck a mentally challenged, young black man on May 8 during a flea market in the town, cursing him and yelling, “Run, nigger, run!”

According to a report by Jerry Mitchell at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Madison County Justice Court Judge Bill Weisenberger is accused by the family of 20-year-old Eric Rivers, as well as several witnesses, of striking the young man at the Canton Flea Market and chasing him away while shouting racial epithets. The incident has spurred an angry protest from local NAACP officials.

Weisenberger, according to witnesses, was dressed in the uniform of a police officer, since he was moonlighting as a security officer for the market. The judge, who is white, reportedly began questioning the presence and behavior of Rivers, who is black, and slapped him twice, chasing him out of the market and yelling epithets after him.

One witness, a vendor at the fair, said she saw Rivers hanging out on the street corner in hopes of picking up work hauling goods from people’s cars to their booths at the market, a common practice.  She said she saw Rivers asking people if they needed help: “That young man was wanting to work to earn money to buy a bike.”

The woman’s sister said she saw Weisenberger “rear back and slap” Rivers, and then chase him from the area with racial slurs.

“I do not care if this young man was being a nuisance,” said the first witness, who is white. “I do not care if he were breaking a law, I do not care if he were loitering, but I do care that a man of authority, one that is sworn to protect and serve, was slapping a young man.”

She added that she also saw Weisenberger verbally assault a female vendor at the market, threatening to make her move her car to a distant location before she could unload. When the woman asked him to change his tone, he reportedly replied that he would only deal with her husband, “because he didn’t take orders from a woman.”

The executive director of the state Judicial Commission, Darlene Ballard, told Mitchell that if the allegations are true, they would “violate multiple canons” of the state’s Judicial Code of Conduct.

Former Canton Mayor William Truly, president of the Canton branch of the NAACP, led a press conference Friday denouncing Weisenberger.

“This is 2014, not 1960, where someone could slap a young man and call out, ‘Run, nigger, run,” Truly said. He called on Weisenberger either to simply resign or to step aside from hearing cases until the matter is resolved.

“No citizen should have to face justice before a judge who holds such a high degree of racial animus and hatred,” Truly said.

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