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White Castle residents march for racial equality

John Dupont
Plaquemine Post South
Plaquemine Post South

Approximately 50 residents gathered June 13 along the streets of White Castle for a peaceful protest to call for an end to police brutality, three weeks after Minnesota police killed security guard George Floyd.

The march along Bowie Street from the White Castle Community to Champion Square included community residents, Mayor John Morrison, Police Chief Mario Brown and NAACP Baton Rouge branch President Eugene Weatherspoon Collins.

Cody Kelton, an incoming White Castle High School senior who participated in the Plaquemine march one week earlier, orchestrated the event in White Castle.

The killing of African American men by police during recent years has created a distrust in law enforcement at the same time that it proves racial prejudice remains widespread across the nation, he said.

“We need more of an open discussion on this because the things that have happened are a learned behavior, and it’s a learned behavior to fear African American males,” said Kelton, 17. “If you take a young child and teach him or her how to love and care for others, that will change the world.”

Longtime White Castle Police Chief Mario Brown, meanwhile, told the crowd they should not judge police by the actions of Derek Chauvin, who killed Floyd after he kneeled on his neck eight minutes.

“We were never taught to do that as police officers,” Brown said.

Hellion Knight III, a White Castle native who came from Houston, said many residents misjudged him as a thug based on his attire.

He coaches basketball in Houston and works with a multi-million-dollar youth athletic program run by rap artist and New Orleans native Lil’ Wayne.

“It’s nice to see White Castle uniting,” Knight said. “And this is just the start for our town.”

Mayor John Morris, who also participated, said he does not want the general public to misinterpret the term “Black Lives Matter.”

“It’s not about the superiority of our race – we just want to be considered equal in every way,” Morris said. “That applies to court rulings, official positions, housing and jobs.

“The term is about the same treatment, equality and fairness, based on credentials and character,” he said.

Morris said residents should not bear hatred to a police force as a whole for the actions of a few.

“The poor training certain officers take to heart should not take away from those who protect and serve in a great way,” he said. “Today, we had great efforts from the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office, the White Castle Police Department and Plaquemine Police Department.

“This was a peaceful march throughout and people showed high respect for law enforcement,” Morris said. “We had different races involved today, and that’s a good think to show that White Castle is a plce of unity, not divisive in process and that we can live among each other even with political and philosophical differences, while at the end of the day we have to respect each other and let the content and character be the biggest judgment factors.”

He also touched upon his town’s racial shift from majority white to majority black.

“People say it’s much different and they speak negatively of this town for that, but White Castle never asked anyone to move away and we’ve always wanted to be inclusive,” he said. “We can survive together.”

Other participants in the march included District 1Iberville Parish Council member Shalanda Allen, District 6 Parish Councilman Raheem Price (who organized the Plaquemine march), along with Keisha D. Fleming, Kwanda Briley, Candace Deptron and members of Delta Sigma Theta Inc., and Omega Psi Phi Inc.