Mayor Robert Reichert planned an upbeat finale to his State of the City address Thursday, but that hope dissolved in the face of angry shouts from two dozen protesters, waving signs and demanding action on the six-week-old fatal shooting of Sammie Junebug Davis Jr. by police officer Clayton Sutton.
The protesters, organized and led by Derrick Barrett, Ed Einbinder, Anthony Harris and Irving Martinez of the Morning Roast blog and TV show, characterized Macon as a city scared of its own police. Chanting Do your job and Give us justice, many of them wore white Justice for Junebug T-shirts as they poured into City Halls lobby, joining a clutch of media and city officials.
Shouted questions repeatedly interrupted Reicherts speech, denouncing the slow pace of the shooting investigation, and alleging management failures and a police cover-up.
Tomorrow will be six weeks to the day since (Davis) was murdered, Einbinder said. Though Macon is attracting major performers, including Jerry Seinfeld and Elton John, the police departments image may deter such acts from coming here in the future, Einbinder said.
Police have said Sutton shot Davis three times in the chest Dec. 21, outside the Kroger grocery store on Pio Nono Avenue where he often spent the day. According to a police report, another officer saw blood coming from Suttons neck after the shooting. Sutton said hed been cut, but police found no weapon on Davis.
The case has been turned over to the GBI, and Sutton is on administrative leave. Reichert said hell wait for various tests results from the state before offering an opinion.
Justice will be done, but we will not be rushed to judgment, he said several times.
That didnt satisfy the protesters, who called for tighter oversight of police. A closer eye on officers disciplinary problems would have weeded out potential problems before they resulted in tragedy, they said.
Harris said that Reichert, on taking over a completely crazy police force, should have reviewed employee files personally and fired officers for any infractions.
As mayor of Macon, I rely on department heads, Reichert replied.
Harris shot back that department heads who didnt watch violators also should be fired.
Later, Reichert said if he reviewed files on all 1,041 city employees himself hed have time for nothing else, but that department heads do so consistently.
Harris said he wants to know who will be held responsible for the erroneous announcement -- made by police public information officer Jami Gaudet in the immediate wake of Davis death -- that Sutton had been trying to serve a warrant. One television reporter on the scene weighed in, telling Reichert that police routinely evade or ignore requests for information.
Despite the protests, Reichert in his State of the City address painted a more optimistic picture of the city.
There is a mood of optimism and a spirit of resolve to make things better, the mayor said, ticking off the bright and optimistic financial report the city presented in December, as well as his recent addresses to civic groups on major projects such as revitalization of Second Street and the planned Sardis Church-Sgoda Road Connector to serve Middle Georgia Regional Airport.
Money from the special purpose local option sales tax voters approved in November 2011 is flowing in to repair streets, finish the Tubman African American Museum, rebuild historic Fort Hawkins and buy a new radio system that will serve all public safety agencies countywide, he said.
On Thursday, he unveiled a strategic plan for the citys final year before it gives way to a consolidated Macon-Bibb County government.
Reichert called it a three-part strategy: continuing to provide basic services, preparing for consolidation, and pushing ahead with major projects.
All of them, Id like to get kind of consensus on completion, he said.
Many of those goals overlap. The plan to turn Second Street into a landscaped and pedestrian-friendly strip from Gray Highway through downtown and all the way to Mercer University is complemented by further emphasis on Five by Five by Five cleanups, in which city crews do intensive work in five-block areas for five weeks at a time in each of the citys five wards. Reichert said he hopes to have those planned at least six months in advance, so neighborhood groups and churches in the target areas can partner with the city to do work city crews legally cant.
The goal is to create a sense of community, in which everyone is treated with respect and dignity, and included in the process, encouraging residents to meet their neighbors and work together on improving their own neighborhoods block by block, he said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.