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NAACP gathering set for Monday

WATERPROOF — State and local NAACP leaders are planning to gather Monday in Tensas Parish to protest what they say is the unfair treatment of Waterproof Mayor Bobby Higginbotham.

The mayor was convicted of malfeasance in office and felony theft in May, and was immediately jailed after the court declared him a flight risk for having missed court hearings in the past.

Louisiana State NAACP President Ernest Johnson said he doesn’t believe Higginbotham is a flight risk, and said that even former governor Edwin Edwards was allowed out on bond pending appeal.

“I am certainly not going to second-guess what happened in the trial, and I think the appeal will take care of itself, but I don’t think it is fair that he can’t be out on bond while his appeal is pending,” Johnson said. “I don’t consider him to be a flight risk. I think he intends to fight the convictions, and I don’t think he is going to go anywhere.”

Kim Smith, who said she is a close friend of the mayor, agreed.

“You have people who are murderers and rapists who commit crimes other than these white collar crimes out on bail, but he was immediately put in prison,” she said.

Smith also said she believes the charges against Higginbotham were upgraded from misdemeanor to felony to give the mayor a stiffer sentence as part of a conspiracy connected to long-running personality conflicts between the mayor and other officials.

“When Mr. Higginbotham came back to Tensas Parish, he did not give in to the white elected officials’ unjust ways,” she said. “He stood up for himself, he was outspoken and he was well-spoken, and they did not like that.”

The Rev. Justin Conner, president of the Catahoula-Concordia NAACP Chapter, announced plans Thursday for a protest at a press conference at Town Hall in Waterproof.

The protest will begin at 9 a.m. with a rally at the town hall, and at 9:45 a.m. a convoy will travel from Waterproof to St. Joseph where the demonstrators will have a protest on the courthouse lawn, Conner said.