Rick Rojas reporting to Petal, Miss.
In what has become a morning routine, Lorraine Bates travels seven-tenths of a mile to City Hall from her home in Petal, Miss. In the early days of the protests, she joined some 200 other protesters, many of whom were white, singing and waving “Black Lives Matter” posters. But there were also times when it was just her and a gardener mowing around her.
She would keep coming, she said, until the mayor of Petal resigned, or at least manifested something like genuine remorse for what he had said about George Floyd after his fatal meeting with Minneapolis police say, “If you can say you can’t breathe, you breathe. ”
“As long as I have my health and my strength, I will be here every day,” said Ms. Bates, 70, sitting on her walker on the lawn of City Hall, recalling the endurance of the activists who had influenced her years earlier as a young black woman rooted in the Great South.
As protests over the death of Mr. Floyd invade major cities in America, the wave of fury and grief has also spread to small towns, including Petal, a city of approximately 10,000 people with a population is 85% white.
Local protests began after white mayor Hal Marx wrote on Twitter that he “hadn’t seen anything unreasonable” in the video showing Mr. Floyd nailed to the ground by a police officer’s knee. Protesters soon gathered in front of the mayor’s house and drew attention to the local case of a black man killed by a white police officer in 2017.
The tensions in Petal illustrate how the protests unfolded in many small communities across America, where the protests were not generally as explosive as those in the major cities that dominated media attention. But the tension is still there, subtle and more concentrated as a national conversation on police brutality and systemic racism takes place in the confines of tight-knit communities.