Local News

Sheriff: Respect rights of El Pueblo, NAACP to gather

Posted September 26, 2008

— Sheriff Steve Bizzell said that safety and constitutional rights should be priorities this weekend as groups gather for a prayer vigil in Smithfield.

Advocacy group El Pueblo announced Friday that they would organize the vigil to challenge intolerance.

Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP chapter, was expected to speak at the vigil, set for 3 p.m. Sunday at the Smithfield courthouse.

Bizzell has been under fire since his comments on the growing minority population in his county were published in The News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh. He called Mexicans "trashy" and said the growing Latino population in his county was "breeding like rabbits."

Twenty-six civil rights organizations responded to those remarks with a call for Bizzell’s resignation. Hispanic media group Que Pasa has also called for Bizzell to resign.

County commissioners have been unstinting in their support of the sheriff, indicating they have no intention of seeking his removal.

Cookie Pope, chairwoman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners, issued a statement on behalf of the board, saying that commissioners supported Bizzell's "successful efforts to protect the citizens of Johnston County against crimes."

In a statement, Bizzell asked that the right for peaceable assembly be honored Sunday. He wrote:

"As citizens of our great country, one of our most cherished rights is the ability to peacefully assemble. El Pueblo and the NAACP have announced their intentions to assemble in Smithfield this Sunday afternoon. I ask that everyone respect their right to have this gathering. It is my desire for Johnston County to be a safe place to host groups from outside our county to gather with their local members within the rule of law. Any interference with this gathering would be contrary to our constitution and not acceptable."


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  • Centurian Sep 26, 2008

    The pressure is on the Smithfield Police Department. The event is in Smithfield and permits would be required from the city. The fact that the Courthouse is owned by Johnston County does nor relieve Smithfield of that responsibility.

  • newmommy06 Sep 26, 2008

    Here comes Willie Barber getting all involved in something he doesn't need to be in...

  • Little John Sep 26, 2008

    Hey Bizzell,
    Don't get soft now!!

  • hopelessillegals Sep 26, 2008

    Great, I guess Bizzell was saying that Groups with opposing views are also welcome to gather in Johnston county to welcome Que pasa and the NAACP and to have a vigil for the rights of the citizens of Johnston county.

  • stanskm Sep 26, 2008

    The NAACP and El Pueblo need to get over this whole issue. Now they are trying to turn this into an all hispanics racist issue and Sheriff Bizzell was referring about illegal immigrants. There are many fine citizens of America that are hispanic but the illegal ones need to go back...because they are BREAKING the law. I wonder why these groups want to protect illegal and law breaking people? I hope all goes quiet Sunday so maybe this whole issue will stop being in the spot light. I still say certain people want Bizzell out because he is doing such a GREAT job of cracking down on crime around here. He still has my entire family's and extended family's support.

  • chickentender63 Sep 26, 2008

    Bizzell for Governor '08

  • irkedncresident Sep 26, 2008

    Wow amazed at how ignorant people still are...

  • KTMrider Sep 26, 2008

    Bizzell for President !!!

  • OSX Sep 26, 2008

    The sherrif better make sure this goes off peacefully. If it doesn't, he could very well be putting a lot of his own people in jail.

  • lbzebulon Sep 26, 2008

    The NAACP are the biggest racist in the country. Always starting some kinda of trouble to keep the country stirred up. They need to pray for themselves. We do have freedom of speech in this country and even though Bizzell is an elected official he is also human and sees the mess we have to put up with in Johnston county. I support him 100%.