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Threats to protesters in Emmett Till rally prompt cancelation of Christmas parade in Kentucky


A Christmas parade planned for Saturday in Kentucky has been canceled after authorities received threats directed at protesters of an Emmett Till rally on the same day.

The annual Jaycees Christmas Parade in Bowling Green, Kentucky was canceled out of an “abundance of caution,” according to a statement. The Mistletoe Market, also in Bowling Green, was canceled on Saturday as well.

At least three groups planned to protest simultaneously at the Justice Center in the city Saturday afternoon, according to a joint statement from the Bowling Green Police Department and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. The protest was to demand justice for Emmett Till, according to NBC affiliate WNKY, who was 14 when he was brutally beaten and shot in the head in 1955 after a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham, said he whistled at her and touched her in a Mississippi store.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, now 89, lives in Bowling Green, according to the outlet.

Authorities learned of the threats against the protesters late Friday evening, according to the statement posted to Facebook overnight.

“Late this evening, we learned of a threat to these protesters,” said Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower. “The specific threat is threatening to shoot anyone whose protesting and anyone helping the protesters.”

Authorities haven’t determined the validity of the threat, but felt it was important to issue an alert, Hightower said.

The Bowling Green Police Department is working with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Kentucky State Police and the Department of Homeland Security to determine the origin of the threat.

Emmett Till’s murder received renewed attention in June when an  unserved arrest warrant for Donham was unearthed in the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse in Mississippi. Donham, who was identified as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” in the warrant, was married to one of two white men tried and acquitted in Till’s death in 1955.

Relatives of the Till’s wanted authorities to finally arrest Donham nearly 70 years later, but in August, a grand jury in Leflore County declined to indict her. The jury determined there was not enough evidence to indict Donham on charges of manslaughter and kidnapping.

Till, 14, of Chicago, was visiting family when he entered a store in Money, Mississippi, where Donham, then 21, was working. She accused Till of making improper advances after he whistled at her, an act considered at the time to be in defiance of the South’s racist social codes.

Evidence indicates a woman, possibly Donham, identified Till to his killers, her husband, Roy Bryant, and another man, J.W. Milam. An all-white jury acquitted the men for the murder of Till, but the duo later admitted to the killing in a magazine interview.

Donham also recanted her story to author Timothy B. Tyson, telling him that her initial accusation was a lie in the 2017 book, “The Blood of Emmett Till.” Last year, a federal investigation that re-examined the murder ended after the Justice Department failed to find proof that Donham had lied.

Till’s murder sent shock waves through the nation and helped spur the civil rights movement. His mother insisted on an open casket funeral to show how brutal his killing was.

The Associated Press, Minyvonne Burke and Safia Samee Ali contributed.