Charges dropped in downtown protest case

Published 12:11am Wednesday, July 31, 2013

NATCHEZ — Charges were dismissed Tuesday against a Michigan woman who was Tased and arrested after reportedly not complying with police during a downtown protest last month.

Debra Pernell-Simmons, 55, of Farmington Hills, Mich., said after the charges were dropped that she believes justice was served.

“(I think it’s an indication) that I didn’t do anything wrong in the first place and this whole situation could have been avoided,” she said, standing among a crowd supporters that gathered Tuesday morning outside the Adams County Justice Court building.

Simmons was arrested and charged with picketing which interferes with access to government buildings, property, streets and sidewalks and resisting arrest.

Simmons and other members of the National Action Network were protesting outside the Adams County Courthouse when Adams County Sheriff’s deputies asked them to disperse.

Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield has said Simmons confronted the deputies, screaming in a bullhorn. Deputies attempted to arrest Simmons, Mayfield said, and Tased her when she reportedly resisted.

Mayfield said the group was given a copy of Mississippi Code 97-7-63, which states that it’s unlawful for any person to engage in picketing or mass demonstrations in such a manner as to obstruct or unreasonably interfere with public premises, state property, county or municipal courthouses.

The group’s protest stemmed from an incident involving Natchez resident Glennese Scott, who claims her mistreatment while in custody at the Adams County Jail in 2003 led to her having a miscarriage.

The group reportedly had a permit and were told by the city they could be on the sidewalks.

Members of the National Action Network, the group that organized the protest, alleged that the Tazing was a clear display of police brutality.

NAN national organizer the Rev. Charles Williams II told NAN supporters Tuesday that this surely would not be the last case in which NAN will become involved.

“Clearly they have a record of police brutality,” he said.

The supporters joined hands and prayed for the sheriff’s office, the justice system and for the strength and courage to stand up to injustice.

“Allow us to be lights in the darkness … and continue to stand up for righteousness and justice,” Williams prayed.

Mayfield said the arresting deputy acted within the scope of his authority when he Tased and arrested Simmons. Mayfield said his office conducted an internal investigation and found the deputy did nothing wrong.

Mayfield said dropping the charges was an attempt to let “bygones be bygones.”

The sheriff’s office agreed to drop the charges, Mayfield said, if Simmons apologized to the deputies.

“She apologized, and we’re happy with that,” he said.

Simmons said she told the deputies she was sorry for the entire incident. She said although she apologized, she does not believe she did anything wrong.

“I also told them I will be praying for them,” she said.