Between 10 a.m. and noon on Friday, drivers on Mill Street honked their horns, encouraging eight protesters who walked up and down the length of A-1 Pallets with signs that read, "Wake Up Jackson". The silent protest came on the helm of last Friday's ruling to grant owners Charlotte and Monte Reeves an order extending the temporary restraining order against the city, its officials and contractors.
Jackson Mayor Frank Melton has vowed to tear down the building, which he has said is an eyesore that poses health hazards. At a press conference in May, Melton told department heads that he "didn't want to see (A-1 Pallets) sitting there at the end of the year." The next week, city code enforcement officers inspected the building and reported numerous violations including blocked doorways, still water, and vermin.
Latasha Willis, of Wake Up Jackson Civic Association and a blogger for the Jackson Free Press, organized the event, publicizing it at the JFP website.
"My goal is to just bring attention to the situation and let people know that if there's something that you don't agree with, that you have the right to speak out and say something about it," Willis said. "You don't have to sit idly by and watch someone else suffering. You can get involved."
Willis said that it is up to Jacksonians to "keep an eye on the city government, and to make sure that our civil liberties are being upheld."
"People are just outraged that the mayor is trying to shut down a legitimate business and that the due process of law is being sidestepped," said Brent Cox, a member of Wake Up Jackson and the ACLU of Mississippi.
"(It's) not just by the mayor it seems, but by people on the city council who have never shown the Reeves exactly what the charges are against them, or given them an opportunity to come up to compliance," Cox said.
Melton told the JFP in a telephone interview that a protest is "not going to work."
"(The demolition plan) is going through the process right now, and it's already been approved to be closed down, and we're going to close it down," Melton said Friday. "It does not belong in that neighborhood, and they can protest all they want to protest, and we're going to take it down."
Willis and Cox said that, beyond posing no threat, A-1 Pallets is a positive addition to a historic area.
"Around this very neighborhood, (people) say, 'They're good neighbors. They are a business. Leave them alone,Ҕ Cox said.
"They are a legitimate business, they bring tax revenue to the city, they provide jobs, they are a historic building, and they have every right to be here," Willis said.
Cox added: "If (A-1 Pallets) was to be removed, you wouldn't just be removing this business; you'd be removing the businesses around it that rely on their income in part to sustain themselves."
Martin Desalvo, 59, of Jackson went to Mill Street to show his support of A-1 Pallets, despite an old injury, which made the two hours of protests uncomfortable.
"I'm out here handicapped, but I believe in what I'm doing because I believe that what the mayor is doing is absolutely crazy," Desalvo said.
Desalvo said that the present state of municipal politics is corrupt.
"What (Melton) is doing is trying to step on toes
If he wants to (tear down) your property, let him buy your property first, tear it down, then let him do what he wants with it
just stealing someone's property because he's got his own reasons, only known to him, I think is ridiculous."
Charlotte Reeves was elated to arrive to A-1 Pallets this morning and see Willis and other protesters.
"It is absolutely wonderful," Reeves said. "Even though we do get phone calls and things and we know people are praying for us, it's just still very, very hard."
Reeves hopes that the restraining order will keep the city away, but Melton said that a restraining order would not deter the city's plans to destroy the building.
"We're going to get (the restraining order) overridden, because it's a health and safety problem for that community," Melton said. "That facility would not exist in any other neighborhood, and I'm not going to have it out there. We have an $18 million investment out there, so they can protest all they want to protest, but we're going to take it down and close it down. "
Reeves said the city's threats have caused her and her husband stress.
"It has absolutely been emotionally draining, physically draining, financially draining. It has really been a burden on us," Reeves said.
"We really thought that we were living the American dream," she said. "We had our own business, we were employing people, we were helping
the environment, and giving back to the community. Who would have ever thought that this would have happened to us?"
Wake Up Jackson Civic Association protested again Tuesday at city hall. Willis said that reception from the public was positive, with the exception of the mayor, who seemed to be "disappointed.
Earlier version of article with blog comments here.