Brookhaven, MS – School and city officials have issued apologies after the Forest Hill High School marching band halftime performance at Brookhaven on Friday depicted the execution of police officers.
Just one week after Brookhaven Police Patrolman James White and Corporal Zack Moak were murdered in the line of duty, the Forest Hill High School band traveled to Brookhaven with the football team for the game.
During their halftime performance, students dressed as nurses and doctors used fake rifles to depict the execution of students dressed as police officers.
On Saturday, the Brookhaven School District said they were unaware about the offensive performance the visiting school would portray, according to a statement on the district’s Facebook page.
“The Brookhaven School District fully supports our local law enforcement,” the district said. “The halftime show performed by the visiting band during last night’s game was an unfortunate issue that our district had no prior knowledge of and does not condone.”
“Our main focus remains, as always, on the safety of our students and the student-athletes performing on our fields,” the statement continued. “We appreciate our community’s support as we continue working to ensure a positive environment of sportsmanship for our student-athletes and those visiting Brookhaven.”
Jackson Public Schools Superintendent Errick L. Greene offered his “deep and sincere apologies for the performance,” the Jackson Free Press reported.
"The performance included toy-guns and the apparent shooting of a character in a dramatized scene that played out on the field as the band played. The scene is an interpretation of the movie 'John Q.,’" Greene confirmed.
"JPS has a great deal of respect and appreciation for our law enforcement partners," the superintendent continued. "The band’s performance does not depict the values and people in our community, and was incredibly insensitive to the students, families, law enforcement officials and the entire Brookhaven community. For this we sincerely apologize to all, and we pledge to do better in the future.”
“We have taken some initial actions in response to this matter, and you have my commitment that we will investigate it fully and take additional appropriate action with respect to procedures and personnel,” Greene said.
Brookhaven Mayor Joe Cox said that Jackson Mayor Chokwe Lumumba personally apologized to him for the halftime show, WLOX reported.
“I offer my sincerest regrets to the Brookhaven community for the insensitivity that [was] portrayed during the Friday evening halftime show," Lumumba said in a statement to the Jackson Free Press. "There is an active investigation into the circumstances that led to this performance.”
Lumumba said he did not believe the Forest Hill students who participated in the show had a “malice intent,” and said the adults tasked with supervising and guiding them should have stepped in.
"Our students should have been instructed that this was neither the time or place for that performance,” he said. “We are ultimately not defined by the things that we set out to do but rather how we respond to the things that actually do take place.”
Lumumba said the Forest Hill band director has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation, Cox told WLOX.
WAPT identified the Forest Hill band director as Demetri Jones.
The Mississippi Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher said the performance “only exacerbates the war against law enforcement” across the country, WLOX reported.
“Mimicking acts of violence against law enforcement, or members of the public should never be condoned at a high school football game or any function whatsoever,” Fisher said. “I have to question whoever made this decision in regards to what message they are sending to our children.”
“This is unacceptable in a civilized society,” Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said in a tweet on Saturday morning. “Someone should be held accountable.”
In the film ‘John Q.,’ actor Denzel Washington played the role of a man whose son needed a lifesaving heart transplant that Washington’s character could not afford due to medical insurance limitations, the Jackson Free Press reported.
In one scene the main character holds a SWAT officer hostage, which is vastly different than what appeared in the high school performance.
"It wasn’t a fake shooting," said former educator Melishia Brooks, according to the Jackson Free Press. "No one is showing the whole show. Find the whole show and watch it. It’s a message of 'put down the guns and pray.'"