FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – An event to condemn the hanging in effigy of Gov. Andy Beshear last month, as well as to mark the 111th anniversary of the lynching of an African-American man on a Frankfort bridge, took place Wednesday on the Capitol grounds.
Focus On Race Relations Frankfort sponsored the event that was attended by several hundred people, which had community representatives speak, and even featured a surprise appearance by the governor.
FORR President Ed Powe described the events that took place on Frankfort’s "singing bridge," June 3, 1909. “John Maxey was dragged by a white mob, taken to the singing bridge, lynched and his body riddled with bullets,” he said. “This, while over 200 people shouted, waved and shot rifles into the air.”
He said lynching is an act of intimidation. “It is used to create anguish, pain, fear and terror in the heart of the victim and in the heart of the victim’s family and community.”
Powe said he was putting the world on notice: “You cannot come to the capital of Kentucky and do a simulated lynching of our governor here on our Capitol grounds. We will not tolerate this, we will not be intimidated, we will not stand idly by. We are better than this, we will show you how we are better than this.”
Frankfort Mayor Bill May took a moment to denounce the senseless deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others, adding, “It’s no surprise that we are sickened and outraged when we see the replica of a man being hanged in effigy. A facsimile of our governor, the leader of our commonwealth, hung from a tree in plain sight of his home where his own children and wife could see. We are better than this.”
Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells also chastised those involved in the effigy hanging. He noted Frankfort is used to protests and people have the right to do so, but they went way too far in hanging Beshear in effigy.
“Not only did they do that, they went to his house. They banged on his window and told him to come outside. That’s wrong,” Wells said. ”That’s not who we are in this community, that’s not who we are in this state and that’s not who we are in this country. We’re good people.”
Gerry Seavo James, an African-American independent journalist whose coverage of the effigy hanging was featured on CNN and other news outlets, said he was interested in what was supposed to be a reopen Kentucky event to use in a documentary he was putting together. He said it changed to a Second Amendment rally, and he was told to stick around for the effigy hanging.
“Lynchings weren’t just a hanging,” James told the crowd. “They were entertainment. People picnicked at lynchings. They took pieces of the body and were happy about it.”
James added, “For me, being here in 2020 and seeing that, it was really hurtful.”
Beshear thanked the crowd for their condemnation of the effigy hanging. “The outpouring of love and support over the last week plus has been overwhelming,” he said. “So to Frankfort, thank you for embracing us, thank you for being here during this time. I cannot express how grateful I am.”
The governor also addressed the deaths that have led to protests across the United States. “We have got to get to a place where everybody believes that our justice system is there to keep us safe, and that’s not the reality we are living in right now.
“There will not be a better opportunity for change than what we are going to see coming out of this pandemic. What I am listening to and what I hear is that people don’t just expect it, they demand it.”