September 19, 2020

Mississippi anti-abortion group protests city’s order to move white cross display

NATCHEZ — White crosses were back on the bluff Thursday evening.

In an act of civil disobedience, members of various local churches stood on the bluff facing the Natchez Grand Hotel, each person holding a white cross while praying.

The group stood on the spot Pro-Life Natchez-Adams County had intended to place its annual cross display until the city told the group to move the display to another location.

“They didn’t want the crosses on public property, but they are,” said Highland Baptist Church pastor the Rev. Paul Southerland, standing with 40 other people.

Southerland and others on the bluff said the display was in protest of efforts by the Natchez mayor and board of aldermen to move the crosses to a less visible spot on the north end of the bluff and away from tourists.

“They didn’t allow the crosses to be put in a prominent place,” Southerland said.

“They can’t be in the ground, so we are holding them up instead,” protester Sandra Eidt said.

In years past, the crosses have been on display in front of the city’s bandstand/gazebo. Last year the crosses were displayed in front of the Natchez Grand Hotel because the city’s Christmas decorations were still up.

This year the city decided to allow the crosses to be displayed on the north end of the bluff after Mayor Darryl Grennell was told of complaints about the display from some Grand Hotel guests.

“Bless his heart, if (one of those customers) is here today, he is looking out at crosses,” Southerland said.

Members from Highland Baptist Church, First Baptist Church of Natchez, Morgantown Baptist Church, Community Chapel Church of God and other churches joined in the silent protest as Pro-Life Natchez-Adams County hosted a prayer vigil inside one of the hotel’s conference rooms.

More than 200 people filled the room to hear about the group’s efforts to end legalized abortions in the United States and to pray.

“The size of the group shows the support of the cause in this town,” co-chair Ruth Powers said.

Powers said the group continues to focus on building up community support.

“We are putting together a list of business owners and service providers who support the pro-life cause. We will publicize the list and hope that we will support each other,” Powers said.

Powers said the cross protest outside the hotel was a complete surprise to her group, but that she was happy to see it when she came to the meeting.

“Highland Baptist Church is a big supporter of (Pro-Life Natchez-Adams County). They are a large part of it,” Powers said. “They were really angry and that is their answer.”

Outside the vigil, the protest continued silently with prayer until the event was over.

“We are the voice for children that can’t speak for themselves,” Southerland said.