Lisa Thomas is determined.
Thomas, founder of the Liberty County Concerned Citizens for Change, said she is going forward with her plans of a 2.23 mile walk in remembrance of Ahmaud Arbery this Saturday at 9 a.m.
However, there is one slight problem.
“Unfortunately, the parks are closed to all organized events of any nature due to COVID,” Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown pointed out.
Meaning Thomas doesn’t have a permit for her walk and admits she wasn’t aware she needed one at first. She said she received an email from Liberty County Recreation Department Director Jimmy Martin informing her she would need approval for her walk. Martin also expressed concerned about social distancing due to the ongoing pandemic.
“I can understand but it’s a walk not a rally,” Thomas said. “It’s not going to have any political speeches or passing out literature. I was going to ask my Pastor to say a prayer before people started walking and that was it.”
Thomas said she told Martin everyone would be wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart. She said she even has a plan in place so the amount of people walking the trail at one time would be staggered to maintain the proper limits.
“And after the walk everyone would just leave,” Thomas said.
Thomas said Martin implied that he would call law enforcement to the event to, “shut it down.”
Martin said this isn’t true,
“My comment was that we all would hate for the police to show up and shut down the event,” he explained. “If it (the walk event) were approved that would not happen. I did not say that I would call the police to shut it down.”
During a called county commission meeting Monday, Brown said that the county plans to open the parks in phases. Phase one is set to happen this weekend. During phase one all outdoor sporting facilities, except playgrounds will be reopened. However Brown said residents must still adhere to policy which includes no gatherings of more than 10 people, following the 6-feet social distancing guidelines and calling ahead to make reservations for the use of the fields, tennis court batting cages and other areas.
Brown had said that should the parks be opened proper procedures must still be followed for organizing events such as the proposed walk this Saturday.
“When parks are open for normal operations a request is made to the Recreation Board for approval to hold an event,” Brown said. “Logistics of the proposed event would be considered, numbers wise, to see if the event organizer needs to insure traffic control or other safety needs. The park (James Brown Park) also lies within both the Cities of Hinesville and Flemington so “organizers” would need to check with those cities to see if permits are needed.”
Thomas said it’s a catch-22 because right now the city is not issuing any permits
“We have nail salons, massage shops, Tattoo parlors, barber and beauty shops open,” Thomas said. “We are crowded in Kroger, Food Lion and Walmart and they are saying we can’t have a Remembrance Walk for Ahmaud Arbery? Every Sunday I walk around the track at James Brown Park. There are a lot of people doing the same daily.”
Thomas said she spoke with other community leaders who support her idea.
Brown said he isn’t opposed to the event, but Thomas should go through proper channels to be in compliance with the policies and procedures of the LCRD, cities and county.
An idea was suggested where Thomas could hold a virtual walk, much like the one done two weeks ago where people across the nation were encouraged to walk on their own for 2.23 miles while practicing social distancing. During the virtual walk people shared their experiences by posting their photos and walk route on social media with the hashtag #Irunwithmaud.
But Thomas said the suggestion meant she would have to post all the LCRD park locations and not post a start time for the event. Folks would be able to go to their own location of choice and walk on their own schedule.
“No sir,” she said.
Thomas said that agenda seemed to be more about promoting the parks and less about what the walk means to her.
“This happened in Brunswick a mere rock throws away from here,” she said. “I am doing this to show the family we stand in unity with them. We love and respect them, and we are sick and tired of these senseless killings and we are going to take a stand for them.”
As of right now Thomas said she is moving forward with the walk and has posted information about it on social media. The event has been shared across several Facebook pages and groups. Thomas added she doesn’t expect more than 50 people to attend.
“That is the same morning of Liberty County High School graduation,” she said. “They are also doing walks in Glynn County in Brunswick so some people might go there.”
But even if more show up they plan to do everything within the CDC guidelines.