Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves posted the following commentary on Facebook Monday afternoon:
I want to address the killing of George Floyd and the protests and riots that followed across the country.
I have always been careful to avoid prejudging any investigation. The officers involved in the death of George Floyd will have their day in court. But, like virtually everyone else who has looked at the case, I came away disgusted and dismayed. I pray that justice will be done, even though we know that it will not bring Mr. Floyd back to his family. I wish he could have had his own day in court, rather than what happened to him. It was a tragedy, and people across the country have a right to be angry. They have a right to be angry for more cases than just this one.
You have a right to protest. It is among the most sacred rights in our country: your right to protest the government. It is what makes us who we are. I applaud anyone who uses that right, and I will always defend your ability to do so.
In Mississippi, that has happened. And with very few exceptions, it has been done without violence or defacement. Protestors were outside my home this weekend, and I heard their messages. I watched as they assembled in a manner that was forceful without descending into violence.
The country has been uniquely united in condemning the killing of George Floyd. And there has been real opportunity for meaningful conversation around issues that too often divide us. The violent scenes in our major cities are tragically drowning that out.
I pray this is true: but I do not believe that there will be riots here. I know that the people of Mississippi do not want to burn down our own communities. Those people protesting want a voice, not violence.
We will never suppress speech and protest in Mississippi as long as I’m governor. We will make an honest effort to listen. These days, it seems like we’re always talking at each other or past each other. Aiming for an audience, rather than a conversation. I don’t want to contribute to that problem.
I also want to be clear: No one has a first amendment right to burn and loot. I truly believe that Mississippi protestors want no common cause with those who use them as cover for chaos. They want no violence. I want no violence. We are not eager for that possibility, but we are prepared.
I want to draw a bright line between two topics: Right here, I am not speaking to the protestors from Mississippi, I am speaking only to the anarchists and agitators from other parts of the country that seem committed to violence. We’ve seen them all over, and frankly they are usually spoiled kids who are privileged enough to not know consequences, and they’re co-opting protests.
I want you to hear that there is no place for you here. Any efforts will be overwhelmed. I am not threatening, I am promising, that the full force of our state will be ready and willing to defend our communities. They will never stand back, they will lean in. And you will not like the results.
This isn’t a game. This is our state. We will protect those who are protesting to make it better. And we will swiftly, forcefully deal with those who only want disorder and violence. They are two different groups–one we should honor and one we must prosecute.