NAACP rally against Villa Rica police target-practice on image of Black man
Last week, the Georgia and Carroll County chapters of the NAACP set its sights on the Villa Rica Police Department as they led a protest over images showing a picture of a Black man being used as a shooting target during a safety class the department held in June.
Unaware, naive, or ignorant of the implications of using the image of a Black man as target practice, the department eagerly posted the photos and a video on social media showing civilians firing at the poster of the Black gunman.
Upon it being posted, it immediately sparked backlash in the form of pushback on social media and from many within the community. The post was removed and police expressed regret over the incident.
A contrite Villa Rica police apologized for the post on June 20, writing on social media that it was never their intention to be insensitive or offensive. They said the targets used in the firearms class depicted “realistic human images” and were part of a package that included people from various ethnic groups.
In leading the protest Thursday at the Villa Rica Amphitheatre, the NAACP said it wanted to hold the police department accountable for its actions.
“Accountability matters. An apology is unacceptable,” Dominique Conteh, the president of the Carroll County NAACP branch, said. “This is more than an apology because what happens is that this is a catalyst. It’s an underlying issue. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. “Several members of the community were present, speaking out about the changes they would like to see in the area.
NAACP member Kerry-Ann Astree, who is the widow of Sgt. Jean-Harold Astree – a Fairburn police officer killed in a crash in 2022 – told dozens of people, “What we saw was not OK,” “Will it happen again if nothing is done? Yes. We are going to speak up, we are going to stand up, and we are going to show up.”
Astree said her husband used to work for the Villa Rica department under the current police chief. “This chief is not about us or anyone else and it’s time that someone spoke this to his face and he gets to understand,” said Astree, who runs a nonprofit that helps support wives of law enforcement members. “His apologies will never be authentic. Just like we saw on Facebook.”
The Carroll NAACP branch said their statement wasn’t enough and deemed the post racially insensitive. “Accountability matters. An apology is unacceptable,” branch president Dominique Conteh said in a news release. “This is more than an apology because what happens is that this is a catalyst. It’s an underlying issue.”
“You put this image up and we’re being shot at”, said local resident Emmanuel Mincey who was also offended by the picture and did something about it. He went to the police department and filed a complaint.
In an attempt to defend the situation, Mansour said his department didn’t mean for it to be viewed that way. He told a news agency that the class used a picture of a white gunman until they ran out of those posters. “The perception of it looks like we have people just shooting at Black guys, and that’s not at all what it was”. Police added that they are inviting the public to attend the next citizens firearms class in hopes of providing a more positive experience.
Villa Rica Mayor Gil McDougal said an outside organization will be tasked with reviewing “how this entire incident came about, not just the post itself.”
Astree said, “We aren’t here just because we want to be here. We are here because we get the opportunity to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. And we are not going away until all is done.”
“At the end of the day there’s a policy that needs to be changed,” one speaker said. “so push for that level of change.”