COLUMBIA — Members of the local NAACP chapter think the decision not to press charges against the person who killed Brandon Coleman on May 19 reaffirms their belief that racism is an issue in Columbia.
On Wednesday, they came together to protest the decision and to demand change in the community.
About 18 people gathered inside Second Missionary Baptist Church to express their disappointment and plan their next steps to bring about change in Columbia.
Mary Ratliff, president of the local NAACP chapter, organized the meeting with other members of the NAACP. The NAACP has been involved in Coleman's case since the beginning, she said.
"Brandon is not here to speak and help us determine who is right and who is wrong," Ratliff said to start off the meeting. "And we're not going to just sit down and accept this."
According to the report released by Chief Boone County Prosecutor Dan Knight, when Dustin Deacon saw Coleman pointing a .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun at his father's head, Dustin Deacon took aim and fired four times at Coleman with a shotgun, resulting in Coleman's death. On Wednesday, Knight decided not to charge Deacon, having determined that Deacon acted in defense of another person.
At the NAACP meeting, Shari Ellis, a longtime friend of the Coleman family, murmured "terrible" over and over again and shook her head as Ratliff spoke.
"We cannot let them get away with this," Ratliff said. "We can't be done. Promise me we will work to get changes made. This is about more than just Brandon. This is about all black men in Columbia."
Many NAACP members expressed their anger, saying that even though there were inconsistent stories surrounding Coleman's death, the prosecuting office still wasn't going to charge Deacon.
Following the meeting, Ratliff and those in attendance took to the street, brandishing signs with images of Coleman's face and chanting "Justice for Brandon" at the intersection of Providence Road and Broadway.
"It's really sad that it's 2013 and we have to be out here like this. You know I watched the '60s shows about civil rights and all that, and never in my dreams did I think I would be re-enacting some of that," said Paula Williams, who participated in the protest.
The protesters made one thing clear: They all agreed that racism is a problem in Columbia.
"All we ask is he get arrested," Kandis Harding-James said of Deacon. "That's all we're really asking for — to be equal with everybody else. I feel that black people get a lot of injustice here in Missouri. There's a lot of racial profiling going on right now."
David Tyson Smith, the Coleman family's attorney, came out to support the protest.
"A jury should decide whether this young man is justified in shooting and killing Coleman," Smith said. "The Coleman family will not rest. Their son was gunned down in public, and if a black man gunned down a white man in public, would they not have filed charges?"
Winona Coleman-Broadus, Brandon Coleman's mother, went to work Wednesday despite her outrage with Knight's decision because she needed to stay busy. Arriving halfway through the protest, she picked up a sign and stood to the side of the group, taking in the scene.
"I was shocked, but I wasn't," Coleman-Broadus said. "I knew if Mr. Knight wanted to make an arrest, it would have already been done and he would have been telling me over the phone that an arrest was made. The fact that he scheduled a meeting for the following day said it all." She paused to gather herself.
"But now we're going to move forward and continue seeking justice for my son. I still maintain that racism shouldn't exist and be as strong as it is in this community. Color shouldn't matter. You should receive fair treatment."
Midway through the protest, the chant morphed into, "no justice, no peace." Several people honked their car horns and flashed peace signs as they drove by.
"This man (Rolland Deacon, Dustin's father) had a weapon and was wielding a machete knife, and I'm told that my son is not justified in pointing a pistol at this man swinging a knife at him," Coleman-Broadus said, her voice rising with every word. "Now you tell me if that's fair that my son can be shot at four times. ... That's excessive, and they think that's justified. ...
"Not only have I lost my son, I've lost faith in the legal system."
The local NAACP chapter plans to meet again to protest.