Marchers continue weekly rallies; requested to stay off the highway

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For the third week in a row, more than 20 folks gathered at the gazebo in downtown Mineola on Thursday, then trudged north along Pacific St.

On Wednesday, Hunter Barr had posted a quote on the march’s event page, attributed to President Barack Obama, reading, “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”

Before beginning their trek Thursday, Barr briefly addressed those assembled, “We’ve got to do more. We’re going to keep marching. We’ve got to start emailing the police department, see what they’re doing, what we can do to help; email our representatives, our mayor…and ask them what they’re doing, what they’re going to do, how they’re changing, how they’re being proactive.”

Along their route, the group was met on the grass beside the highway, just north of where Hwy. 69 veers toward Alba, by Mineola Police Captain Dusty Cook.

Cook has given a case of water bottles to the marchers at their halfway point, just east of Mineola Police Dept. headquarters, all three times they ventured through.

This time, Cook informed the group they were in violation of the law by marching in the street and essentially gave them a verbal warning by asking them to stay in the grass. He stressed safety, both for the marchers themselves as well as those driving around them.

“I’m not trying to stop y’all…got a lot of respect for what you’re doing, but we’ve got to be safe.”

To stay safe and legal, Cook wants them to stay in the grass.

“It keeps us from getting complaints, it keeps us from having to tell you guys you can’t do it…. We want you to be able to do it.”

A dialogue began.

Cook invited them, “Any of y’all are welcome to come to the police department any time. I visit with people all the time, it’s what I do.”

Barr queried, “You think maybe next week instead of walking to Walmart, we could walk to the police department, and whoever’s there, come out and answers questions?”

Cook responded, “Depends.” There was a brief awkward pause during which Barr chuckled.

Cook continued, “I mean honestly, we’re trying to help out where we can, we’re trying to, I guess remain neutral. Like said, I respect y’all, but we’re trying to help where we can and do what we can do to help. But as far as actually being involved in it, we’re trying to remain neutral either way.”

Barr said, “What we want, on a local level, is to know what this police department does to be proactive. Nothing that I know has ever happened with a police officer and a Black man in Mineola, but we don’t want that to happen.”

Cook expressed, “I don’t see that happening. I don’t think that would happen, because we respect all communities in Mineola, and I know our officers do the same. And I feel like we have that respect with all members of the community.

“Obviously there’s always going to be somebody that doesn’t like us, but we try to do what we can to gain that respect, and we like to have that respect back. You know it’s a give-give situation.”

Just after the marchers had moved on, a driver stopped in the parking lot to tell Capt. Cook about the traffic problem they were causing.

Asked whether they had received many complaints, Cook responded affirmatively.

“People are trying to get home, man. They get upset when they have to wait. When traffic gets down to one lane, people get upset.

“We have to look at both sides – congestion of traffic, impeding roadway – and then we don’t want to have to tell them they can’t do what they’re doing.”

He said the police department is open for visitors any time.

“We want to be community police. You know, we don’t want to be stuck behind doors where nobody can talk to us. We like to have that open door policy, where people can do that[…] and if they don’t want to come in, we can come to them and talk.”

The marchers’ two-mile walk concluded with a short gathering on the grass by Whataburger’s parking lot, under the welcome shade of a tree.

Some expressed frustration mixed with disappointment regarding the interaction with Capt. Cook. If they head to the police dept. as proposed by Barr, perhaps a dialogue will continue there. Another rally is planned Thursday at the gazebo in downtown Mineola at 5 p.m.

In the meantime, Barr encouraged them to reach out, “Message them, call them, do whatever we’ve got to do. Because I’m tired of walking and I’m tired that we have to keep walking.”