By Brian Livingston / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Meridian Star
A group with Freedom to Speak, a FaceBook site organized by Jim Brashier, took to the sidewalk and front parking lot of the Meridian Police Department Friday afternoon to protest in support of recently fired MPD officers and express their concerns on the direction Meridian officials were taking the city.
Brashier said the protest was to let the community know there is a place they can voice their concerns and that his site was created to keep the community informed on what was happening in the city.
"We wanted to show the general public we are willing to take a stand," Brashier said. "We don't believe in what the city and the police department is doing."
Brashier was joined by several former police officers and their families as they held up signs and responded to motorists who honked or yelled out their support. One of those former officers, Tom Wilson, was on hand because he said he is deeply disturbed by what he has seen transpire over the months since he retired in October of last year.
"I don't work there anymore but I'm here to also support those officers who are left behind," said Wilson, who is still the vice-president of the Meridian Local #1 Fraternal Order of Police. "The mayor should replace Lee with someone who can effectively manage the staff and officers of the MPD. We need a people person in there who can get along with everyone, officers and the public."
MPD Chief James Lee, watched the peaceful protest from just outside the department Friday. When contacted on his reaction about the protest happening on his doorstep, he said he had no problem with it.
"It is their First Amendment right to protest," Lee said. "I approved their request to hold the protest."
Brashier, who was present for the Dean Harper trial held in Meridian Municipal Court Monday but was not allowed to enter the courtroom to listen to the proceedings, said more than 30 police officers have been fired since Percy Bland became mayor of Meridian and Lee was tapped to be the chief of police.
"We also don't like the way in which former financial officer Ed Skipper was unceremoniously fired or the actions by the mayor in regards to the Meridian Civil Service Commission," Brashier said. "My opinion is that the arrogance of power has taken over."
Mike McGrevey, chief administrative officer for the city of Meridian, said a priority of the city is safety and security and he welcomes discussion about those issues.
"With regards to the protesters — even when I was in the military, we would always say, 'Isn't America great that, particularly we would be serving on freedom's frontier around the globe to defend the right of folks to express their opinion," McGrevey said. "That's what's great about America. I like debate. I like spirited debate, short of civil disobedience. There's been no civil disobedience here." McGrevey went on to say debate helps us service the issues that are out there because if we don't service them and bring them to the light, it's difficult to deal with. Debate and openness helps us reach better decisions, he said.
Brashier said he isn't confident things will change anytime soon with the current leaders in place.