Meridian Star

April 26, 2013

Stuffed animal hung from State Farm office

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Meridian Democratic mayoral candidate Percy Bland was faced Thursday morning with the type of racial and political hatred he thought he would never see.

    Suspended from an outside light fixture at his 1602 24th Avenue insurance office, Bland and two of his employees discovered a stuffed dog dangling from the fixture by a hangman's noose. To Bland, it was a clear message.

    "This is a cowardly act designed to intimidate, scare and terrorize," Bland said Thursday. "I have notified the proper authorities. There is no place for this in our society.”

    Bland said during his first mayoral campaign four years ago he had often received hate mail and phone calls and been called the "N" word. He said he expects to have people not want him to run for office. But this is clearly crossing the line. Still, Bland was defiant.

    “I have a simple message to the person or people who did this. I am not afraid of you," said Bland.

    Mayor Cheri Barry said she was saddened to hear of the alleged incident.

    "As mayor of Meridian, I want everyone in this community to know that this type of behavior will not be tolerated," Barry said. "The Meridian Police Department and, I understand the FBI, are investigating and they both have my full support."

    Bland said police were called to the location and an investigation was launched. Meridian Police Department Capt. Dean Harper, commander of the department's Criminal Investigation Division, couldn't comment on any of the details of the case.

    "We are investigating a case," Harper said Thursday afternoon.

    On the Meridian Police Department Facebook page Thursday afternoon, authorities posted a picture of what they called a baby's stuffed animal blanket that was used in the incident. MPD authorities were asking the public’s help in identifying the owner of this blanket. They said it is apparently a baby blanket used for an infant or toddler with an animal’s head sewn into the hood and white enclosures for the hands.

    MPD authorities asked if you know the owner, have seen it in someone’s possession or know what store it is sold in, please call police at 601-485-1863 or CrimeStoppers at 601-485-1860.

    Bland said he was told by MPD officers the evidence would be sent to the FBI in Jackson.

    Bland said there are always going to be people in the public who take things to extremes but the disturbing vision of the hangman's noose around the neck of the stuffed dog was in his opinion disconcerting.

    "I'm not going to let this stop me for what I believe is the right thing to do and what I feel I should do," said Bland. "If anything else, this may have backfired on whomever did this because I'm more determined now, I have more fire, to cotinue this campaign."

    Bland did admit he has made what he termed as arrangements in regards to his wife and two children. He wouldn't discuss what those arrangements were but he was clearly thinking about their welfare, not so much his.

    "I'm not going to be threatened by this from anyone but I do want to ensure my family is kept as far away from these things as possible so those are the arrangements I refer to," Bland said.

    Bland went on to say he loves Mississippi and has mingled with all races without any problems in the past. He said he'd pray for whomever did this act but added it took just one bad person to set back the race relations of the community and state by decades.

    "This is one sick individual who did this," Bland said. "But this is not who we are as a state and as a community so I would urge everyone to get past this as I'm doing. We are going to continue to focus on running a successful campaign for mayor.”