Gov. Tate Reeves discussed the violent protests going on throughout the nation at his press conference on June 1.
He told residents that he would support their rights to peacefully protest but would not tolerate violence.
Reeves went on to state that the state is ready and willing to protect Mississippi’s communities from potential violence. However, he did not say exactly how rioters would be dealt with.
“I am not threatening. I am promising,” he said. “The full force of the state will be ready and willing to defend our communities.”
Protests have erupted across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd by the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota.
Reeves said many of those protests have turned violent after being co-opted by “spoiled kids who are privileged enough to not to know consequences.” He said he had spoken to other state governors about the violence recently.
He doesn't expect any violence to come from Mississippi residents. Rather, he believes that any violence would be brought about from out-of-state agitators.
“I know people in Mississippi don’t want to burn down their communities. We will never suppress speech or protest in Mississippi as long as I am governor,” he said. “I also want to be clear that no one has the First Amendment right to burn or loot."
He said that violence is sullying the original message behind the protests, which was to bring attention to police brutality against Floyd and other African Americans.
“I have always been careful to avoid prejudging any investigation. The officers involved n the death of George Floyd will have their day in court. But like virtually everyone else that looks at the case, I came away disgusted and dismayed. I pray justice may be done, even though we know it will not bring George Floyd back to his family.”
As for protests, Reeves said he applauds "anyone who uses that right, and I will always defend your ability to do so. In Mississippi, this is exactly what happened over the weekend. With very few exceptions, it has been done without violence and defacement."
He commented on the demonstrations that were conducted in front of the governor’s mansion. “Protesters were outside my home this weekend and I heard their message. I watched as they assembled in manner that was forceful, but not violent.”