February 7, 2023

LIVING HISTORY: Threats against Emmet Till protestors leads to canceled Kentucky Christmas parade

LIVING HISTORY: Threats against Emmet Till protestors leads to canceled Kentucky Christmas parade

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Bowling Green, Kentucky’s annual Christmas parade and SoKy’s Mistletoe Market have both been canceled after threats of violence against a planned protest at the events. Protestors are demanding the arrest of Carolyn Bryant Donham, the White woman whose lies led to the abduction, torture, and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955.


Donham is believed to be living in an apartment in Bowling Green.

Various civil rights groups had planned a “Justice for Emmett Till” protest on Saturday at noon at the Justice Center and at Carolyn Bryant Donham’s apartment on Shive Lane.

Protest organizers told us they planned to be armed in case they needed to defend themselves, according to local affiliate WBKO News.

Bowling Green Police Chief Michael Delaney gave a joint press conference with Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower explaining the decision, posting a video around 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

Watch the video of the press conference below. 

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“There are at least three groups planning a protest to take place at noon on Saturday,” Delaney said. “These groups intend to protest simultaneously at the Justice Center on Center Street, and the 1000 block of Shive Lane..”

“Late this afternoon, we learned of a threat to these protesters,” Sheriff Hightower added.

“The specific threat is threatening to shoot anyone who is protesting and anyone helping the protesters. As of this moment, we have not been able to determine the validity of this threat, however we feel that it is important to alert our citizens” Sheriff Hightower said.

According to Chief Delaney, the Bowling Green Police Department and Warren County Sheriff’s Office are working with the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, and the Kentucky State police to determine the origin of the threat.

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Donham, who is now in her late ’80s, was never arrested for her role in Till’s death. 21-years-old at the time of the brutal murder, Donham accused the teenager of whistling at her., which prompted Donham’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his friend J.W. Milam to go looking for the child.

After kidnapping, beating, mutilating, and shooting Till, the pair lynched the helpless boy — tying a barb-wired fan around his neck before dumping his lifeless body in the Tallahatchie River.

Both Bryant and Milan were acquitted of the murder.

In the 2017 book, The Blood of Emmett Till, Donham reportedly told author and Duke University Professor, Timothy B. Tyson that she lied about being groped by the young boy — sparking outrage from civil rights advocates, and members of the Black community.

In August, a Mississippi grand jury declined to indict the 87-year-old on charges of kidnapping and manslaughter. The LeFlore County grand jury cited “insufficient evidence,” as if a recorded confession is insufficient.

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While there were mixed emotions about the decision, Emmett Till’s cousin, Ollie Gordon, found some solace in knowing that Bonham has had to live with her actions for seven decades – and that’s not a good thing.

“Justice is not always locking somebody up and throwing the keys away,” Gordon said. “Ms. Donham has not gone to jail. But in many ways, I don’t think she’s had a pleasant life. I think each day she wakes up, she has to face the atrocities that have come because of her actions,” the Associated Press wrote.

ABC 13 reported that organizers for the Jaycee Christmas parade canceled the annual event out of caution.

“The safety of our participants and spectators is ALWAYS are main focus. We have been in constant communication with law enforcement and have felt, all week, that we could provide a safe, fun event. With this latest information, we knew that postponing was our best option. We will be working, today, to come up with another date for the parade,” the organizer posted on Facebook.

Watch the video of the press conference here.

Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick

Ty Ross

News journalist for Washington Press and Occupy Democrats.

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