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"You have to be law-abiding": Community leader wants Perkins protests to remain peaceful



DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s been nearly 3 months since the officer-involved shooting that killed Stephen Perkins. A community leader in Decatur is calling on his fellow protesters to remain peaceful during demonstrations.

Following recent arrests of protesters and discussions about removing Stephen Perkins’ memorial from the city hall, Morgan County NAACP President Rodney Gordon says they won’t allow distractions to get in the way of their ultimate goal.

While the Perkins memorial remains, many of the signs that once read “Justice for Stephen Perkins” were removed by the city Wednesday.

From the removal of Perkins signage at the city hall to the recent arrests of protesters following a visit to Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling’s home, both have been upsetting for demonstrators.

However, Gordon wants the focus to remain on why the movement began in the first place.

“You have to be law-abiding, you can’t protest to them about breaking the law and you’re breaking the law, you can’t do that,” Gordon told News 19. “We’re not instigating violence in no case, we’re protesting for justice.”

As demonstrations continue on a daily basis, Gordon added that he’s emphasizing the importance of peaceful protests.

The Morgan County chapter NAACP president says despite what some may believe, many of them support law enforcement, but he says the city needs to address what he called certain officers in uniform.

“We love the police too, we just don’t love the bad police. This is not a black and white thing, it’s a right and wrong thing,” Gordon said. “It’s not racism, it’s rightism, but the actions of the bad police has turned this thing into racism”.

According to Decatur City Councilman Hunter Pepper, those in the community who are backing the officers involved in the shooting death of Stephen Perkins are afraid to talk about it.

“There are many supporters for the police department, many have reached out by email, text or call. They have stated why they support officers and that there really is a silent majority who are choosing to stay quiet due to fear of being targeted by protestors,” Pepper said in a statement.

Gordon says he has a message for protesters. He’s pushing them to remain diligent in their approach.

“I want to encourage you [protesters] to stay on the course, to stay law-abiding. The goal is to get those officers prosecuted and get those bad cops off the force,” Gordon said.

The Perkins memorial at the Decatur city hall will remain for now, but that could change come the beginning of the new year. City leaders have not made a definite decision as of yet.

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