Bill Weisenberger, an elected Mississippi judge, slapped a young mentally challenged man who was attempting help a flea market vendor unload her vehicle. Then when the young man became frightened and fled, Weisenberger yelled, “Run, n*****, run!” after him.
Those are the accusations from the parents of the victim, Eric Rivers, 20, as well as from a witness, Cathy Hendrix, a vendor at the Canton Flea Market when, on May 8, Weisenberger was working a second job as a security guard.
While Weisenberger has not issued any public statement on the incident, the local NAACP branch president, who is also a former mayor of Canton, says that Weisenberger should step down from his position as a judge and the assault should be investigated as a hate crime.
“For what other reason would you choose an African American and strike him, and kick him and say ‘run n***** run,'” asked William Truly. “This is 2014, not 1960.”
Vendors at the flea market frequently hire local workers to help unload their merchandise for a fee. Hendrix says that Rivers told her that he was trying to earn money to purchase a bicycle.
“I do not care if this young man was being a nuisance,” said Hendrix who like Bill Weisenberger is white. “I do not care if he were breaking a law, I do not care if he were loitering, but I do care that a man of authority, one that is sworn to protect and serve, was slapping a young man.”
Hendrix’s sister Tammy Westbrook told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper that she saw Weisenberger “rear back and slap” Rivers two times. Other witnesses said they saw Weisenberger place his hand on his holstered sidearm as he yelled the racial epithet at the fleeing Rivers.
“He’s a gentle soul, and because he was mentally challenged, he was a child that was simply looking for work. He didn’t want to harm anybody and didn’t think anybody would harm him,” Vickie McNeill, a friend of Rivers’ family, told a TV news station. “He’s frightened by the whole experience.”
Hendrix also said she saw Bill Weisenberger later accost a female vendor, telling her he was going to force her to park far away from the area where she needed to unload her merchandise. According to Hendrix, when the woman told him to “change his tone,” Bill Weisenberger told her that he would not let a woman give him orders and demanded to speak to her husband.