Protest in Paris

By: Emi FitzGerald Email
By: Emi FitzGerald Email

PARIS - The Lamar County Courthouse is quiet now, but earlier today the north lawn was filled with protesters crying racial inequality for a 14-year-old girl.

Chants called for action, asking for now 15-year-old Shaquanda Cotton's release from a TYC facility.

Cotton is serving time for shoving a substitute teacher in 2005. "People say this is just some bad black girl. That is not true," said Creola Cotton, Shaquanda's mother.

Protesters like Ramone Walker of Denison came from as far away as Dallas and Sherman to speak out against the sentence.

"Support, support, support. All the black folk need to support one another 100 percent. Just support."

City and county officials watched from inside and outside the courthouse to make sure everyone was protesting peacefully.

Paris police say they were ready for today's protest, which drew more than 350 people, because of a smaller event last week that had about 100 participants.

Dallas hip-hop radio personality Rickey Smiley, along with members of the New Black Panthers, led the efforts. Smiley publicized the rally on his daily program.

"We already know what the problem is; we're trying to get into a solution. And the solution is to free this child. Let's change legislation, and let's change these laws, and make these lays fair for everyone, not just white people."

But Lamar County prosecutors disagree, saying they prosecute everyone according to their age and severity of crime, not according to race.

"The choices were send her home with mom because no other family came forward, which was obvious that the mother was not going to help her follow the rules, she made that clear in court, or send her to TYC. And unfortunately, the only decision was to send her to TYC," said Gary Young, Lamar County District Attorney.

Despite claims of fairness from prosecutors, protesters say they will continue to fight for Shaquanda until she is released.

Shaquanda is serving her second year of a seven year sentence. Lamar County officials say it's up to TYC staff to determine if she'll serve the full seven years based on her behavior.

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