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Threats to Protesters at Emmett Till Rally Lead to Cancellation of Christmas Parade in Kentucky

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A Christmas parade scheduled for Saturday in Kentucky was canceled after authorities received threats directed at protesters at an Emmett Till rally the same day.

The Jaycees’ annual Christmas parade in Bowling Green, Ky., has been canceled out of “an excess of caution,” according to a statement. The mistletoe market, also in Bowling Green, was also canceled on Saturday.

At least three groups planned to demonstrate simultaneously at the city’s Justice Center on Saturday afternoon, according to a joint statement from the Bowling Green Police Department and the Warren County Sheriff’s Office. The protest was aimed at demanding justice for Emmett Till, according to NBC affiliate WNKY, who was 14 when he was brutally beaten and shot in the head in 1955 after a white woman, Carolyn Bryant Donham , said he whistled and touched her at a store in Mississippi.

Carolyn Bryant Donham, now 89, lives in Bowling Green, according to the outlet.

Authorities learned of the threats against protesters late Friday evening, according to the statement posted to Facebook overnight.

“Late in the evening, we learned that there was a threat to these protesters,” Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower said. “The specific threat threatens to shoot anyone who protests and anyone who helps protesters.”

Authorities have not determined the validity of the threat, but felt it was important to issue an alert, Hightower said.

The Bowling Green Police Department is working with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Kentucky State Police and Department of Homeland Security to determine the origin of the threat.

The murder of Emmett Till received renewed attention in June when an unissued warrant for Donham’s arrest was unearthed in the basement of the Leflore County Courthouse in Mississippi. Donham, who has been identified as “Mrs. Roy Bryant” in the warrant, was married to one of two white men tried and acquitted in Till’s 1955 death.

Relatives of the Tills wanted authorities to finally arrest Donham nearly 70 years later, but in August a Leflore County grand jury declined to indict him. The jury determined there was insufficient evidence to charge Donham with manslaughter and kidnapping.

Till, 14, from Chicago, was visiting family when he walked into a store in Money, Mississippi, where Donham, then 21, worked. She accused Till of making inappropriate advances after whistling her, an act considered at the time to be against racist social codes in the South.

Evidence indicates that a woman, possibly Donham, identified Till to her killers, her husband, Roy Bryant, and another man, JW Milam. An all-white jury acquitted the men of Till’s murder, but the duo later admitted to the murder in a magazine interview.

Donham also recanted his story to author Timothy B. Tyson, telling him his original accusation was a lie in the 2017 book, “The Blood of Emmett Till.” Last year, a federal investigation that re-examined the murder ended after the Justice Department failed to find evidence that Donham had lied.

Till’s murder sent shockwaves across the country and helped spur the civil rights movement. Her mother insisted on an open casket funeral to show how brutal her murder was.

The Associated Press, Minyvonne Burke and Safia Samee Ali contributed.

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