Some Camilla city leaders protest alleged segregation claims, city manager responds

Some Camilla city leaders protest alleged segregation claims, city manager responds./ Photo: Alexandria Ikomoni

Some Camilla city leaders are protesting alleged discriminatory and segregated practices in town.

“I think it is dehumanizing to them,” Mayor Rufus Davis said. “I think it is an embarrassment to our city.”

Camilla Mayor Rufus Davis said the fence at the Oakview Cemetery is the line that divides where blacks and whites are buried.

“All blacks that have ever been buried are buried there,” Davis said. “There are no records, so if you had a relative that was buried on that side, unless someone could show you were their body is buried, you would never find out.”

Many burial plots on what Mayor Davis calls the black side aren’t maintained and some even destroyed.

City Manager Bennett Adams said the cemetery is public and maintained.

Mayor Davis said blacks don’t have the option to be buried on the opposite side of the fence.

“Although it’s not a written policy, it’s something that is practice,” Davis said.

City Manager Adams argues that isn't true.

“Whoever they are, if they come in here, we’re not going to discriminate based on race," he said. “To my knowledge, we’ve never had anybody come, an African American or another non-white, come in and buy a burial lot in our cemetery.”

The cemetery is one of the main reasons why Mayor Davis and the City Councilman-Elect, Venterra Pollard, are working hard for change.

“We are engaging in a non-violent protest by sitting out of council meetings until these injustices are addressed,” Davis said.

The decision to protest came after the city council approved to change the city charter.

“This change will give the city manager broad and extraordinary powers,” Davis said. “The power to appoint all city boards, all city commissions, all committees, all authorities and the city attorney.”

Mayor Adams responded, and said in the new charter, the entire city council has that authority. He adds that Mayor Adams hasn't been to many committee meetings since he's been in office.

“The purpose of those meetings is to address things that are coming up on the agenda for the next month," Adams said. "He may not have all the information that he might have had if he attended the meetings.”

The mayor and city councilman-elect won’t shake until change is made.

“Before we will sit in a meeting, we want the cemetery to be desegregated for starters,” Davis said.

Davis is looking to others nationwide for help.

“Please lend us your voice,” he said. “Lend us your support in addressing the issues in our community.”

While the mayor isn’t attending the meetings, the mayor pro tem will lead them his place.

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