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Apparent racial tensions during Sumter County candidate forum

WRBL Staff - AMERICUS, Ga. -- Apparent racial tensions in Sumter County surface at a candidates forum ahead of the November election. During the forum, a man was hold up a sign calling some city officials "white racists."

According to the protester, the sign he's holding is calling out the current Mayor Barry Blount. The sign reads, "This city is Massa Blount's Plantation."

"My viewpoint never lines up with theirs because I want to talk about serious, people issues," says Craig Walker.

Tuesday, Craig Walker attended the 2017 Sumter County Chamber of Commerce candidates forum. He came with a few controversial posters. Walker says his sign was in reference to the current Mayor Barry Blount and also other city council members who tend to shut him down during council meetings.

"He tells me you can't say that, you gotta stand over here, don't you have other things you need to be doing than coming up here? I'm a taxpayer. I have the right to redress my governing body," says Walker.

Walkers says, he's attended city council meetings for about two decades. Some of the issues he says he's tried to address are: unemployment, police brutality and over-policing the low income neighborhoods, and racism within the police department of Americus. Tuesday, we asked Mayor Blount, if he had any comment on Walker's signs.

"He knows my door is open anytime he wants to come and talk with me I'd be glad to sit down and talk with him," says Mayor Barry Blount.

Blount has been the mayor for 12 years. He adds, those who have strong opinions are entitled to their Freedom of Speech. This includes, Mayor candidate Laura Lee Bernstein.

"I'll say it. There definitely is a race issue in Americus. There has been historically. I think we're capable of certainly building from that and collaborating with each other. It's going to take the right person though and the right personality," says Laura Lee Bernstein.

The mayoral race is just one of three races in Sumter County. The others are for the District 5 seat in Americus and also the Post 3 in Andersonville.

Walker says there's a current police in place, that makes it difficult for his voice to be heard at council meetings. He says, viewpoints must be submitted three days prior to the meeting and they must get three yes's before a viewpoint can be addressed. Walker says, his viewpoints have gone unapproved ten times.

You must be registered to vote by October 10. Early voting for the races in Sumter County is October 16. The election is November 7.

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