The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Delta Caucus Supports Peaceful Protests across the Region in Aftermath of George Floyd's Murder

Posted on June 10, 2020 at 11:32 AM

The Delta Caucus partners support the many peaceful protests that are taking place across the Greater Delta Region and the rest of the country in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. In light of our highly diverse organization and the vital importance of civil rights and race relations in the Delta’s history, we believe it is important to speak up at this crucial time.

We condemn the looting, arson and any extremists who are taking advantage of this situation. The vast majority of the protesters are peaceful. The demonstrations come primarily from concerned, peaceful citizens based in their home areas and not from “professional outside agitators.”

We are urging all protests to be peaceful and safe, with everyone wearing masks to avoid spread of Covid-19.






We will cite a number of examples of predominantly peaceful protesters reported from our partners based in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama and the Washington, DC area.

Mayor Kevin Smith, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas: Mayor Smith held a peaceful march and rally in his highly diverse Mississippi River town. The Mayor and many local leaders took part. There were about 100 people there, including blacks and whites. They were wearing masks. There were no “Antifas,” KKK or other extremists there.

Mayor Smith has emphasized open channels of communication on Facebook, in person and in meetings like the one they held in Helena. There were a series of speakers and they had a candid, constructive dialogue.

Pine Bluff, Arkansas held an innovative “Pine Bluff Solidarity Rally” where about 300 people listened from their cars in the Pine Bluff Civic Center parking lot due to coronavirus concerns to a series of speakers including Mayor Shirley Washington of Pine Bluff, Rep. Vivian Flowers and Sen. Stephanie Flowers of Pine Bluff, and the Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant. It was broadcast live by Deltaplex Radio in Pine Bluff.

The speakers and organizers including the nonprofit Arkansas Public Policy Panel urged attendees to get involved in the political process and channel the anger felt by Floyd’s death in positive directions to bring about systemic changes.

North Louisiana Delta: Professor Herb Simmons, Professor of Criminal Justice at Grambling State University and head of the nonprofit Greater Northern Louisiana Community Development Corp. said there have been peaceful protests in Monroe, Shreveport, Alexandria and his home town of Jonesboro, among others.

On Sunday, June 7 in Jonesboro there was a peaceful march and protest by about 200 people—a large turnout for the relatively small town of about 5,000 people. There were both whites and blacks there, wearing masks, and Professor Simmons said “I’ve never seen the magnitude of the gatherings all across the country. Jonesboro and Jackson Parish, Louisiana was one of the hotspots in race relations over the years since the civil rights movement so I was surprised and happy to see it so peaceful, with blacks and whites taking part.”

Simmons was involved in the civil rights movement in his lengthy, distinguished career, and he said that “I regret that 60 years later it had to come to marches and protests, but let’s hope and pray that this moment will truly be the turning ppoint we that we can be the great nation we originally set out to be.”

Jonesboro, Louisiana was the birthplace of the civil rights organization “Deacons of Defense,” which was formed to counter the racism and hatred of the Ku Klux Klan. Simmons said he was glad to see many young people getting involved, because those who have been concerned about civil rights and equality in our region in recent years have tended to be middle-aged to older age groups.

“The young people had the spirit that ‘Let’s take up the mantle for one America, because if we don’t live together we will perish together.” He said that “If we don’t get it right this time I weep for our nation,” but fundamentally he wanted to strike a positive note that this will be the historic moment when we as a nation finally bring about permanent change and end racial violence.

From Thelma Collins, who for many years served as mayor of the historic Delta heartland city of Itta Bena, Mississippi:

“For many years the African American Male and Female have been the targets of a suffering people. So many unjust acts have been committed; yet, I am assured that in God ‘s time, justice will reign. We can see it in our younger generation that the time is now and all of us must come to the realization that love is the ingredient that binds all of God’s creation.”

“We are all saddened by the death of Mr. George Floyd; therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to take an inventory of how we would feel if that had happened to one of our children. It is so unfortunate that as African Americans and other minorities, we have to talk to our children–especially males—about the manner in which specified actions must be taken if they are detained by a policeman.”

Birmingham, Alabama: Our contacts there indicated that after an initial bad incident of looting in the early demonstrations, the protests have been fundamentally peaceful. One of our white contacts there who grew up during the Jim Crow era said she was utterly horrified by the video of Floyd’s death and shared her feelings with African American friends in the area.

She said she supported the peaceful protests and would have participated herself but could not, being 77 years old with underlying conditions making her vulnerable to the virus, and had difficulty walking. “I don’t walk well now but I have a voice and can speak out,” she said. She said the officer with his foot on Floyd’s neck seemed to be acting more like an animal than a human being.

Sikeston, Missouri—Mike Marshall, CEO of the Sikeston Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp. and a former Alternate Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority said there was a peaceful protest in his southeast Missouri Delta community. Sikeston has a diverse population of about 69% white, 25% African American, and smaller numbers of other minorities.

There were people from both races, they were wearing masks, and the Sikeston, Missouri protest was peaceful and constructive.

Washington, DC, area—We have contacts in this area and our colleagues here observed peaceful protests. If there were any violent protesters we didn’t see them. The demonstrators outside the White House were typical of the nonviolent mood and the overwhelming force used against them was completely unnecessary, as a factual matter. As for the “outside agitators,” 90% of those arrested were based in the local area of Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia—and this is in one of the most cosmopolitan places on earth where people from all over the country and all over the world are always passing through.

Data on arrested people refute allegations of protests being heavily influenced by outside agitators, indicating the vast majority are local residents:

In addition to the direct observations of everyone we have consulted in our coalition, court records, employment histories and social media posts of 217 people arrested in Minneapolis and Washington, DC compiled by the Associated Press indicated that more than 85% were residents of their local area.

Of those arrested for curfew violations, rioting and failure to obey law enforcement, there were only a very small number having any affiliation with organized groups.

For those arrested for more serious offenses related to looting such as arson, burglary and theft, they often had criminal records but were local residents taking advantage of the situation caused by the demonstrations. These people are obviously despicable and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

In our region we recall the many erroneous complaints of segregationists during the civil rights movement that protests were not the result of local concerned citizens but instead were “out-of-towners” who came in to stir up trouble. This was not true then and it is not true now. Politicians and law enforcement officials have typically exaggerated the outside elements in order to excuse their reliance on greater force to quell the demonstrations.


We would urge our partners to contact their Members of Congress, state officials, and local mayors and police chiefs in support of constructive reforms to improve law enforcement accountability, reduce racial profiling, and change police practices to put an end to the tragic succession of violence by police officers against African Americans. We all know that the George Floyd killing was the latest—if one of the most graphic and recorded on video—of these tragic events:

We should emphasize that most of these reforms have been presented many times in the past but were defeated either by politicians depicting themselves as champions of “law and order,” police unions, and fear of hampering police. We all agree that most police are not excessively violent racists, but the minority who are guilty must no longer be protected and this will not cause any problems for lawful, appropriate actions by the police.


The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 now being debated in Congress includes some long overdue provisions, but we need to understand that this is just one important step and many others will be needed at the state and local level as well. This bill would:

–Ban chokeholds and restraints such as the knee applied to the neck of Mr. Floyd;

–Establish a national database to track police misconduct, which will prevent officers with a track record of misconduct from moving from one law enforcement agency to another to find work;

–Place restrictions on no-knock warrants and prohibit them in drug cases at the federal level (the 26-year old emergency room technician Breonna Taylor was shot at least eight times at her own home by Louisiville police when they were serving a no-knock drug warrant at the wrong address;

–Provide pressures for states and municipalities to enact similar prohibitions on chokeholds, carotid holds, no-knock warrants and other changes by withholding federal funding;

–Change federal law so that victims of excessive force or other misconduct only have to prove that officers “recklessly” deprived them of their rights, as opposed to the current requirement for victims to show that the officers’ actions were “willful”;

–Expand the US Justice Department’s ability to investigate and prosecute police misconduct;

–Make lynching a federal crime and limit transfer of military equipment to state and local officials.

PLEASE NOTE: This bill does NOT in any way support “de-funding” or “disbanding” the police. No serious analyst proposes disbanding local police departments. Obviously a civilized society cannot function without police.

Funding aimed at prevention of conditions that lead to crime: there are reasonable people who would argue for re-directing some police funding to black communities for schools, jobs, housing, health care, substance abuse and other preventive programs that will reduce crime rates.

Changing priorities in funding to allocate more for pro-active social programs is sound policy. Over the past 40 years, policing has expanded beyond its original boundaries to fight not just crime but homelessness, mental illness, youth violence and other social ills. This over-reach of police duties needs to be cut back and law enforcement should leave civilian authorities to handle these social issues.

Local issues always have to be taken into consideration: We understand that higher-crime areas have to be dealt with somewhat differently than other areas, but the basic policy of pro-active social funding and reasonable cutbacks in the recent over-expansion of police roles is a solid principle. De-funding or crippling the budget for police would be counterproductive.

Congress should provide financial incentives to reward those departments that maintain high standards regarding use of force so as to have a “carrot and a stick”: Since leaving police with inadequate budgets and lower pay naturally makes it more difficult to recruit high-quality officers, Congress should provide not just the stick of withdrawing federal funding for misconduct but the carrot of financial incentives to assist police who meet high standards of policing such as the one to be established in the national database on police conduct.

Reform should not be vindictive but should employ both a carrot and a stick—incentives and pressures regarding funding.


More systemic reforms in how police operate — in hiring, training, deployment, and accountability — will have to take place at the state and local levels. There are roughly 18,000 police agencies in the country.

We are seeing some reforms take place at the state and local levels and this must be encouraged across the country:

–Greater levels of training on the appropriate use of force, understanding of civil rights, and developing safeguards at the recruiting and training levels;

–There needs to be ongoing training and monitoring and police should not just rely on training at the academy. Follow-up and continuing training needs to continue on an ongoing basis after officers join the force;

–Greater discipline for a pattern of offenses revealing racial bias and misconduct short of lethal violence. A preventive approach applied to officers who have received complaints could prevent lethal violence before it happens by firing officers who reveal a pattern of misconduct;

–More hiring of African American and Hispanic officers with incentives for doing so;

–Police and municipal officials should include in the department’s use of force policy a “duty to intervene” requirement in which officers who observe improper misconduct by another officer must make best efforts to stop the misconduct. The City of Little Rock announced plans for such a requirement and we hope it is finalized.

–Engagement with the community by recruiting residents throughout the city to take part in “constructive, creative” dialogue with police officers on a regular basis. Little Rock has also announced plans to take this step.

–Independent reviews of local police departments by state entities or other third parties to examine their records regarding the use of force need to be enacted. A department that pledges to examine its own conduct is unlikely to produce needed reforms.

–Local prosecutions and firings of police who have engaged in excessive use of force send a profound message. We can all encourage them to take such tough discipline. They need to know the public is watching their conduct more closely than ever. We need to require change, not just ask for it.


As many of our African American leaders have said, with these unprecedented demonstrations and the most graphic killing yet captured on video, “God help us if we can’t put an end to this racist violence this time.”


We have all seen the statements by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and other military leaders opposing the use of active-duty military forces to deal with unrest in US cities. The Posse Comitatus Act states that the military cannot be used to enforce laws in states and territories without the express authorization of Congress.

As with most laws, there is an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act: the Insurrection Act, of 1807, which can be invoked if there is an insurrection against state law and a state government requests federal help in restoring order. After the Civil War, Congress added a vital provision enabling the president to invoke the Insurrection Act without a state’s permission if the state is failing to protect the Constitutional rights of its citizens.

Washington, DC is in a different category because it is a federal district, so the president has authority to deploy troops there—albeit whether it is wise or justified to do so even if he has technical legal grounds is an entirely different question. The Insurrection Act throughout American history has usually been utilized either when a state requests it or when a state is obstructing federal law. Key examples include:

–President US Grant used the Insurrection Act against the Ku Klux Klan that was thriving after the Civil War in some South Carolina counties. He organized 1,000 troops in 1871 to detain more than 600 men and most were tried and convicted in federal court.

–In 1932 President Herbert Hoover sent US troops to disperse a group of 20,000 World War I veterans in Washington, DC. The unemployed veterans were seeking bonus payments from Congress in what became know as the “Bonus March.” Some of the veterans engaged in a physical confrontation with police, whereupon Hoover called in the military including tanks. General Douglas MacArthur led armed military forces against unarmed veterans, despite being warned by his aide, Major Dwight Eisenhower, that such action was improper. One veteran was killed and 60 were hurt, according to Washington Post reports at the time.

–President Eisenhower sent federal troops to escort African American students into Little Rock Central High in 1957 after Gov. Orval Faubus used National Guardsmen in an effort to obstruct the desegregation of the school as required after the Brown decision.

–President George H. W. Bush invoked the Insurrection Act to calm riots in the acquittal of a policeman in the beating of Rodney King. Gov. Pete Wilson had asked for federal aid, but he had not demonstrated that state and local agencies were unable to enforce the law. Legal scholars and law enforcement experts later criticized Gov. Wilson’s request as an over-reaction.

There have been many other historical examples. The fundamental American tradition is that we have always been deeply skeptical about using the military to enforce federal law within the United States. We believe it would be wise to adhere to that sound tradition in the current environment.

In the current environment some governors such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. J. B. Pritzker of Illinois have publicly stated that they do NOT need troops to be sent into their states. Others may have a different inclination, but with the current peacefulness of the demonstrations even though seem unlikely to request federal forces.

President Trump could still send in troops, but he would have to make the case that federal law is being obstructed in the state, or the state is failing to protect the rights of its citizens.

As a matter of constitutional law, Delta Caucus director Lee Powell (who holds juris doctorate and graduate degrees from the University of Virginia Law School and Graduate School in recent US history) cites the analysis of Professor Saikrishna Prakash of the University of Virginia Law School, an expert on executive power issues.

Prakash said that if President Trump were to invoke the Insurrection Act in the states, he would likely be challenged in court. A federal district judge might rule the move was unlawful, but given the higher federal courts’ reluctance to challenge the President’s actions as Commander in Chief, Prakash was of the opinion that his invocation would probably be ultimately upheld. Of course, it is always difficult to predict court decisions and such rulings are inevitably influenced by the judicial philosophies of the justices at any given time; The current make-up of federal appellate courts and the US Supreme Court has a strong bent in favor of upholding Presidential authority. Professor Prakash pointed out in an interview with Time that even if the President eventually prevailed in the legal battle, an injunction could delay troop deployment and limit his ability to send in troops regarding the current protests.

The major conclusion is that while the President may or may not have the legal authority to use the Insurrection Act to send in troops, the wisdom and need for such a decision should be the basic criteria and not technical legality. Based on all the facts that we have been able to ascertain, the protests have largely been peaceful up to June 9 and they are trending even more in a decidedly non-violent direction.

We need to let protesters continue to exercise their First Amendment rights in peace. There is no need here to invoke the Insurrection Act.