Rally for Kendrick Johnson at Georgia State Capitol on Dec. 11, 2013 (@IAmGWoods/Majic 107.5)
ATLANTA — Jacquelyn and Kenneth Johnson say they have sat on the street corner of the Lowndes County Courthouse in Valdosta every day for months. They sit silently holding signs that ask passersby “Please Help Us Find Out Who Murdered Our Child.” On Wednesday at a rally on the front steps of the Georgia capitol Building, they were joined by a cadre of activists, preachers and politicians to demand an investigation.
While Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Joseph Lowery, who were slated to address the demonstrators, never spoke, cameras rolled as speakers including BET’s Jeff Johnson, MSNBC’s Goldie Taylor,Martin Luther King III and more than a dozen others called for a full investigation into the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson, who was found dead inside of a gym mat at Lowndes High School in Valdosta.
“I got off the plane from Baltimore this morning because I’m a father,” said Jeff Johnson. “So often we have mothers that step up…and just like there are mothers, there are fathers who have had enough, fathers who have had enough of black-on-black crime, of black-on-black brutality. But they have had more than enough of seeing black boys in places where they have been brutalized by people who don’t look like them, who want to shove it under the rug.”
Jeff Johnson also invoked the words of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that “an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.”
When King’s son, Martin Luther King III, spoke he also alluded to the words of his father as well as the legacy of recently deceased South African President Nelson Mandela.
“We’re saddened that we have to come to our state capitol and appeal to our governor for justice,” King said. “It seems that in this period of time as we are observing the passing of President Nelson Mandela that his example shows us, as did my father and many others, that you have to stand up a long time for justice.”
King’s spirit was a constant presence at the rally, and much of the event was led by Raphael Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where King had once been the preacher.
Warnock led the crowd in call-and-response chants of “No justice, no peace” and “I am Kendrick Johnson,” and called on the crowd to command action from Gov. Nathan Deal and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who have so far not spoken out publicly about the case.