Ouachita Parish Police Jury Vice President Jack Clampit asked people to forgive him earlier this week for carelessly publishing remarks on social media over the weekend about “thugs” and shooting looters.
Clampit’s remarks provoked outrage on social media and led to a protest at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse on Monday. Many protesters and even some of Clampit’s colleagues asked him to resign or issue an apology.
He issued a statement apologizing for the social media comments to KTVE Channel 10 News on Tuesday.
“Last week I made a comment I need to apologize for,” Clampit said. “I didn’t proofread my comment and it came out wrong. To those who I offended, I’m sincerely sorry. It wasn’t intended to be a racist remark but I see where it could be taken that way.”
The protest at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse as well as the remarks that inspired the protest coincided with the spread of protests across the country to signal solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement or in opposition to alleged police brutality. The protests began after the death of George Floyd, who was shown in videos to have died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck despite the man’s pleas for help and air. In many areas across the country, protests have devolved into violence, looting and destruction of private property.
In a Facebook post over the weekend, Clampit wrote, “There’s a simple way to control the looters. Just two words. Choot em,” a reference to the “shoot them” phrase used by Troy Landry, a Cajun alligator hunter, on History Channel’s television series, “Swamp People.”
Clampit’s original post sparked a flood of comments, from people voicing agreement with Clampit’s remarks while others called on him to rethink his words. In further defense of his original post, Clampit defended the post in a Facebook conversation by noting he was an elected official.
“I am elected,” Clampit began, “But the truth stands on its own. I’m not worried about the next election. I am concerned about the business owners who are losing their dreams due to thugs. Many of which are black. Yes. Charge the officers involved. But stop punishing those who had nothing to do with it.”
Later, Clampit deleted his remarks, erasing the original Facebook post as well as the lengthy thread of comments attached to it.
In his statement on Tuesday, Clampit said he should have written that comment differently.
“I am concerned about business owners (many of whom are black) losing their dream due to looters,” Clampit said. “Again, I apologize for my ambiguous comments and ask for the forgiveness of those I offended.”
Outside the courthouse on Monday, many of the people participating in the protest declined to identify themselves or to offer comments to The Ouachita Citizen.
One protester, Augie Bosley, of Monroe, described Clampit’s post as a “racist remark” and interpreted Clampit’s remarks as a direct affront to black people.
“He ought to be taken out of office for saying that black folk should be shot down,” Bosley said.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, many of Clampit’s supporters declared their willingness to “stand with Jack Clampit” or their belief that any American citizen had the right to protect their life and property by shooting looters.
During the Police Jury’s meeting, six people asked to speak to the Police Jury and address Clampit, specifically. Most of them asked Clampit to resign or apologize.
No one voicing support of Clampit’s remarks spoke publicly.
The first person to address the Police Jury was Elijah Brass III, of West Monroe, who lives in District B (the district Clampit represents on the Police Jury). Brass also organized the protest on the steps to the courthouse.
“The words that he shared were irresponsible and not becoming of a public official,” Brass said.
Brass clarified his position, stating his opposition to any looting as unacceptable.
“Not one time did he encourage the people of this parish to peaceably protest,” Brass said. “Mr. Clampit, I come asking you to resign as vice president, as board member, and issue a statement.”
Many of the people voicing outrage about Clampit’s remarks echoed Brass’ position, including Larrese Rollins, of West Monroe, and Trandon Welch, of Monroe, who is campaigning for the District 4 seat on the Monroe City Council. Rodney Welch, of West Monroe, expressed disgust with Clampit’s previous use of the word “thug” as a coded reference to black people in prior Facebook posts.
Rev. John Sewell, of Richwood, said he doubted Clampit published the remarks out of any malice.
“Think. Please think before you speak,” Sewell said. “I’m just highly disappointed.”
At the end of the meeting, three of Clampit’s fellow police jurors publicly condemned Clampit’s remarks on Facebook.
Police Juror Michael Thompson Sr., of Monroe, said leaders should act a certain way.
“I thank you for calling us out as jurors to condemn what was done, and I sit here today and I do condemn the post that was made by my colleague,” Thompson said. “I am in no way with those kinds of words.”
Police Juror Lonnie Hudson, of Monroe, asked Clampit to issue an apology.
“As a black man, it offends me and the community I serve because I serve for everyone,” Hudson said. “Racism don’t have no part in our community. Your comments are wrong. You owe this community an apology.”
Police Juror Scotty Robinson, who is a declared candidate for a U.S. House seat this fall, said he disagreed with Clampit’s remarks as well. Earlier in the meeting, Brass had called on Robinson — as a congressional candidate — to make a public statement. Robinson asked Clampit to respond to the complaints made at the meeting.
“I think you owe it to your voters and constituents,” Robinson said.