On Thursday, September 21, 2023, a band director from Minor High School in Alabama was tased and arrested by police officers after he refused to stop his band’s performance at the end of a football game at P.D. Jackson-Olin High School in Birmingham. The band director, Johnny Mims, was charged with disorderly conduct, physical harassment and resisting arrest.
The incident sparked outrage and controversy among the public, especially the students and parents of Minor High School, who witnessed the chaotic scene. Mims’ attorney, Juandalynn Givan, said that the police action was unacceptable and excessive, and that Mims did not assault any officer. She also said that Mims and his students were following a tradition called the “fifth quarter”, where bands from historically black colleges and universities continue to play music after a game ends.
Why did it happen?
According to the Birmingham Police Department, the officers were trying to clear the stadium after the game and asked both band directors to stop their performances. The band director from Jackson-Olin High School complied, but Mims instructed his band to keep playing. The police said that Mims pushed an officer during the arrest, which led to the use of a taser to subdue him.
However, Mims and his attorney disputed the police version of events. They said that Mims did not push anyone and that he was tased multiple times, even while on the ground. They also said that Mims was not given a clear reason for why he had to stop playing. They claimed that the police violated Mims’ rights and traumatized his students.
How did people react?
The incident sparked a lot of reactions from different groups and individuals. Some of them are:
- The Minor High School community: Many students, parents and staff members expressed their support for Mims and their anger at the police. They held a rally on Monday, September 25, 2023, outside the school, where they chanted “Justice for Johnny” and “Let them play”. They also wore T-shirts with Mims’ name and picture on them. Some of them said that Mims was a great teacher and mentor who cared for his students.
- The Birmingham City Schools: The district issued a statement on Friday, September 22, 2023, saying that it was aware of the incident and that it was cooperating with the police investigation. It also said that it was providing counseling services for students and staff who were affected by the incident. It did not comment on Mims’ status as an employee or whether he would face any disciplinary action.
- The Birmingham Police Department: The department released a body camera footage of the incident on Tuesday, September 26, 2023, which showed the confrontation between Mims and the officers. The department said that it was conducting an internal review of the incident and that it would not comment further until the review was completed. It also said that it respected the rights of people to express their opinions peacefully.
- The Alabama State Department of Education: The department said that it was monitoring the situation and that it would provide any assistance needed by the district or the school. It also said that it had no authority to intervene in personnel matters or criminal investigations.
- The Alabama Education Association: The association, which represents teachers and other education employees in the state, said that it was providing legal representation for Mims. It also said that it was concerned about the safety and well-being of Mims and his students.