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Protesters march to city council meeting

 

Columbus residents Andrea Owens, Fairren Wallace, Linda Owens Elliott, Rhonda Jones and Willie Wilson sing “We Shall Overcome” outside the Columbus Municipal Complex before Tuesday’s city council meeting. They were part of a march drawing attention to the death of Ricky Ball, who died in a police shooting Oct. 16.

Columbus residents Andrea Owens, Fairren Wallace, Linda Owens Elliott, Rhonda Jones and Willie Wilson sing “We Shall Overcome” outside the Columbus Municipal Complex before Tuesday’s city council meeting. They were part of a march drawing attention to the death of Ricky Ball, who died in a police shooting Oct. 16. Photo by: Isabelle Altman/Dispatch Staff

 

Isabelle Altman

 

 

A crowd marched to the Columbus Municipal Complex during Tuesday night's city council meeting to draw attention to the police-involved shooting death of Ricky Ball last month. 

 

The march was organized by Ball's cousin, Ernesto Ball, who has criticized the Columbus Police Department for its handling of Ball's death. Ball died after being shot twice by a Columbus police officer on the night of Oct. 16. Three officers at the scene said Ball, after fleeing from a traffic stop and being Tased, pointed a gun at them, but none of the officers' body cameras were activated prior to or during the incident. 

 

Canyon Boykin, one of the officers, was fired the city council. Two others -- Johnny Branch and Yolanda Young -- have been suspended. 

 

Marchers began gathering in the parking lot of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church on 14th Avenue North around 3 p.m. Tuesday. At around 3:45 p.m., a crowd of roughly 70 to 100 people began marching from the church to the Municipal Complex. 

 

A police escort accompanied them through northside neighborhoods. As the marchers walked, they chanted, "No justice, no peace! Stop killing us in these streets!" and held handmade signs that said, "Justice for Ricky Ball" and "All lives matter." They often called out to bystanders along the route to join them. Other people had parked cars along the march's route to hold up signs and cheer their support. 

 

The marchers cheered and clapped when they reached the Municipal Complex at 4:30 p.m. By that time, the crowd had grown slightly. Most of the marchers attended the 5 p.m. city council meeting, asking questions and voicing concerns regarding Ball's death. 

 

Authorities say a 9mm handgun was found near where Ball fell after being shot. That weapon, authorities say, had been stolen from a Columbus police officer's residence in August. The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation is conducting forensic exams on the weapon to determine if Ball ever possessed it, according to CPD. 

 

After spending an hour and a half at the council meeting, a small crowd marched from the Municipal Complex to the intersection of 14th Avenue North and 20th Street North. There -- at the spot where Ball was loaded into an ambulance on Oct. 16 -- they held a candlelight vigil. 

 

Ernesto Ball, a family member of Ricky Ball's who organized the march, said he plans to hold a march every time there is a city council meeting until "justice has been served." He told marchers to like his Facebook page "Justice for Ricky Ball." 

 

Ernesto Ball said he spoke to CPD Capt. Fred Shelton about getting permits for future marches. Ball said if future marches are small, permits won't be necessary. However, he thinks the movement will grow, not shrink. 

 

Betina Ball, one of Ricky Ball's relatives, sang part of the song "Hold On Just a Little While Longer" following the prayer at the candlelight vigil. 

 

"There's so much going on," she said. "People want to act quick with violence. So I feel that song is really uplifting. And it's not only 'hold on' ... it's 'pray on' as well." 

 

Betina Ball stressed the importance of having patience and not resorting to violence. Both she and Ernesto Ball were happy that the marchers had not only been so supportive of the Ball family, but had remained peaceful. 

 

Another marcher, Toby Hartleroad, thought the march went well as a whole, he said.  

 

The closest thing to opposition to the march was the driver of a passing car who leaned from the car window and screamed, "Go to hell!" at marchers as they left the Municipal Complex. 

 

For the most part, friends and family seemed satisfied that the march had gone well.  

 

"I think it went very well, very well," Ernesto Ball said. "Everyone came together and supported us in our time of need. Not only that, but they showed much love for Ricky." 

 

He added that the march was not just about Ricky Ball, but about anyone facing injustice. 

 

"Ricky Ball is all our sons," said marcher Cyrus Conner-Bey.

 

 

 

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