MAMOU - Black Panther National President Joe Lawrence expressed a desire to have an armed march in the small town of Mamou at Wednesday’s council meeting.
Lawrence said, “What we want to do is ask the city for four permits to march in your town. We will be bringing over 250 Black Panthers in this town, bearing arms. In our cities, we have a right to bear arms in the State of Louisiana. Of course, they tried to stop us in Baton Rouge and last week, they couldn’t stop us. We was over 400 strong. We bring the same thing to this town here.”
Lawrence is the National President of the Black Panther Party of Louisiana, and he is also over the states of Texas, Oregon, Mississippi and Georgia. He and another Black Panther member attended the meeting.
All members of the council were present except Police Chief Brent Zackery, who was away on business.
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Lawrence’s request for a march permit was met with questions from Councilman Charles Reed and fellow council member and Mayor Pro Tem Leisa Deshotel.
“Why do we need to bear arms?” Reed asked.
“Yes, I have questions, too,” Deshotel added.
Lawrence replied, “Well, first of all, it was said to us, that (if) we come here, ya’ll police officers know how to deal with us. The state police tried the same thing in Baton Rouge.”
Reed asked who told Lawrence that about Mamou Police officers, and Lawrence said that he could not give out the source of the information.
Mayor Randy Fontenot said, “Let me tell you. Nobody is coming over here and bearing arms but our police department. So somebody else is going to have to come over here besides Joe Lawrence and tell me that I have to do that.”
“You had two state police come and talk to you, am I correct?” Lawrence asked Fontenot.
“Yes, but they told me nothing about arms and told me I did not have to give that permit if I did not want to,” Fontenot said.
Deshotel also asked why the group had to bear arms during a march.
“How many in this room have guns?” Lawrence asked. “All of ya’ll. Ya’ll don’t want nobody to take ya’lls guns from ya’ll, right?
“No, but we don’t walk down the street with it either,” Reed said.
“But the thing is, you can bear arms,” Lawrence said. “We can’t? That’s our constitutional right, what we want, when they come, the state police will be here with the FBI while we are on the street with guns.”
One of the council members asked Lawrence how soon he wanted to use the permit, and Lawrence told the council that he wanted the permit at that moment.
“Do ya’ll want to do this on hearsay that we have a bad police department?” Deshotel asked Lawrence.
“We’ve got proof,” Lawrence replied.
Peter Savoy, city attorney, said, “The mayor is going to say it better than I can but we have laws and ordinances we have to follow, but I’m going to let him speak for himself.
Savoy continued, “The ordinance says you must go to the police chief to get a permit.”
Fontenot said, “As long as that ordinance reads that way, that’s what I am going to follow. ”
Council members continued to express concern over why guns would be needed at the march as the discussion continued.
“We don’t know when we walk down this street and get right over here by the motel, we don’t know who going to throw something or who is going to shoot at us,” Lawrence said.
“So you’re going to shoot?” several of the council members asked.
“We have the right to protect ourselves,” Lawrence said.
He continued, “All you have to tell me is ‘no’ mayor and I’ll walk out of here. All I ask is that you provide me a copy of this tape (audio recording of the meeting).”
Reed said, “It scares me that you could have things escalate where we don’t want it to go. I believe that everybody has a right to say what they want and to protest and to walk or march, but I’ve got a problem with the arms.”
He continued “I want you to voice your opinion as much as you want but I don’t see why you need firearms.”
Lawrence also asked that in the future, the council have potential police officers come before the group when they are being considered for hire. Before he stepped away from the podium, Lawrence asked for a copy of the agenda and information about a march permit.
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