• 70°

Stokes and law enforcement have history

By Sid Salter

The recent dust-up between bombastic Jackson City Councilman Kenneth I. Stokes and the state’s law enforcement community has dominated both the news and social media in the state in the early days of 2016, but the truth is that this is simply the latest act in a tired old show.

Stokes has been insulting and antagonizing Mississippi’s law enforcement community for many long years. This latest outrage — in which Stokes’ suggested that residents of his ward should throw rocks, bricks and bottles to show police from other jurisdictions how they feel about police pursuits from surrounding communities — isn’t any worse than prior Stokes’ race-baiting escapades stretching back to the 1990s.

Who could forget the time in 2005 when Stokes invited Imari Obadele, the former Republic of New Africa president, to Jackson’s City Hall as a black history month speaker?

Obadele — born Richard Henry in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1930 — was president of what he called the Republic of New Afrika, a country that existed only in Obadele’s imagination. He proposed that the RNA be formed by removing the southern states of Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina from the union and turning them over to African-Americans.

Likewise, Obadele was advocated of black separatism and reparations for blacks. The RNA eventually engaged in gun battles with law enforcement in both Detroit in 1969 and in Jackson in 1971. In both those incidents, a police officer was killed.

In Jackson, the slain police officer was Jackson Police Lt. William Louis Skinner. Lt. Skinner was shot through his car window and police helmet on Aug. 18, 1971, when police and FBI raided the RNA’s headquarters at a house on Lewis Street in Jackson. Obadele was indicted for the murder, but evidence surfaced later that showed he wasn’t in the house at the time Skinner was shot.

Obadele later served more than five years in prison for conspiracy to assault a federal agent, assault and firearms possession.

Skinner’s son, Bill, was later elected as a Hinds County judge. In 2005, Bill Skinner told the media that his father was murdered and Obadele was responsible.

“This man is a terrorist,” Bill Skinner said. “He ran a terrorist organization and there is no difference between him and Osama bin Laden.”

Obadele died at the age of 79 in 2010 in Atlanta. But the invitation to bring Obadele — someone reviled for good or ill by the law enforcement community in Mississippi as a cop killer — back to Jackson was classic Kenny Stokes.

While the move brought outrage and denouncements from law enforcement officers, it certainly didn’t hurt Stokes at the ballot box. His constituents, at least the vast majority of them, heartily approved. Stokes saw his numbers soar at the polls.

The notion that an elected official would encourage residents to throw debris at law enforcement officers is numbingly irresponsible, but it’s par for the course in the Kenny Stokes road show.

Stokes isn’t worth the ink expended in printing this story. But the city of Jackson is important.

What’s truly sad is that Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber and others on the Jackson City Council who are struggling honorably and sincerely with very real problems in our state’s capital city have to deal with the consequences of the false image of Jackson that Stokes has spent two decades building.

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at sidsalter@sidsalter.com.