Sep. 7—SPARTA, Ga. — The family of the young Hancock County woman who died after she fell out of a moving unlocked door of a patrol car earlier this summer are demanding answers from local and state authorities.
They are not alone.
An estimated 80 people, the majority of them marching with signs that carried a number of messages, participated in a protest-march-rally Saturday. It was held in honor of 28-year-old Brianna Marie Grier, according to Hancock County NAACP Chapter 5673 President Marion Warren.
"The reason for this march is to bring more awareness to the lack of medical services, mental health services and health, period," Warren told The Union-Recorder. "We're also demanding answers on behalf of the family from authorities. They have a right to know what happened to their daughter and they have a right to see the documents and to see all the video footage from the body cameras worn by the deputies on the night this happened to this young lady."
Brianna Grier's face has become the face of the civil rights movement across America as it relates to mental illness.
Warren was joined at the march by Gerald Griggs, president of the Georgia Chapter of the NAACP, as well as members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from neighboring Washington County.
"This is all about Brianna and her two gorgeous twin girls," Griggs shouted on a megaphone. "Like Leah Abrams said, they will steal your heart. This about them and realizing that we will lift them up, and we will lift this family up. We will demand justice in season and out of season, because this should never have happened in Georgia."
Griggs, who attended Grier's funeral service and a subsequent march afterwards in Atlanta, said told the protestors and marchers that they were going to peacefully and non-violently walk from the grocery store to the Hancock County Sheriff's Office.
"We are going to demand justice and accountability," Griggs said. "We still have not heard the final report from the GBI (Georgia Bureau of Investigation). We still have not heard from the leaders to account for what happened to Brianna Grier."
Several things have been shared, but Griggs said he and everybody else want to know the truth.
"The truth will set you free, and it will also give the appropriate answers to this family," Griggs said. "So, we have traveled to Hancock County, and Sparta, Ga., but make no mistake, this is a short ride anywhere in Georgia. And there was a great Georgian who once said, 'An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'"
Griggs said the Georgia NAACP and its many partners stand shoulder to shoulder with Brianna Grier's family and her parents, Marvin and Mary Grier, of Sparta.
Griggs said the hope is to shakeup the entire State of Georgia when it comes to mental illness and how people are treated who have mental illness problems.
"This is our Brianna," Griggs said. "We've been on the ground in Minnesota; we've been on the ground in Louisville; and we stayed on the ground in Brunswick and now this at Ground Zero for this social justice movement."
Griggs then led those involved in the protest, march and rally across Broad Street in downtown Sparta to the Sparta-Hancock Detention Center a short distance away.
Protestors walked with signs that read: No justice, no peace. Help me, not kill me. My life mattered. The people united will never be divided. Justice for Brianna.
During the march, Griggs said he wanted everyone to know that Brianna Grier was remembered and that she would not be forgotten.
He said it was important to wake up everyone in Sparta on what he described as a sleep Saturday morning where a lot of people were getting ready to watch the Georgia-Oregon college football game or something else.
Griggs shared another message.
"The blood of Brianna Grier cried out from the ground," Griggs said. "But when the blood cries out from the ground, we convene to be the voice of the voiceless. And so, I don't know about y'all, but I'm ready to march."
Several members of other organizations also took part in the two-hour protest, march and rally. They included Students from the Party of Socialism at the University of Georgia. Two others were from the National Activist/National Children's Campaign.
Charles White, president of the SCLC in Washington County, said he and other members of the organization came to remember Brianna Grier and show her parents support.
"We want to help get justice for the death of Brianna Grier," White said. "This should not have happened. They (deputies) should have checked the door of the patrol car and made sure it was closed before they ever pulled off."
White also brought up the point about why the deputy was not alerted to a dash light indicating a door was ajar in his patrol car.
"The deputy should have noticed that and stopped the car immediately, which caused this terrible accident," White said. "That's on them."
White said Brianna Grier should never have been handled the way she was handled by deputies when they went to her parents' home and arrested her.
"She was mishandled by the deputies and she should never have been arrested because of her mental health condition," White said, noting personnel from the county's ambulance service provider should have been with deputies at the time. "She should have been taken to a medical center to provide her with the help she needed — not arrested."
White said he hopes the protest, march, rally in Sparta will help to show those in law enforcement throughout Georgia that there exists big problems when it comes to mental illness.
"Our law enforcement personnel need to be better trained when it comes to dealing with mental illness situations," White said. "We don't need law enforcement officers going out and bullying around those with mental illness conditions. We need to find ways to help those people."