SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Following Friday's Chatham County Commission meeting, a group claiming to represent the Black Lives Matter Movement in Savannah called for Sheriff John Wilcher's resignation.
The group says they want to see him step down within 30 days - all over the treatment of black inmates at the Chatham County Detention Center.
The man who read the statement said if the sheriff doesn't resign within 30 days, more than 100 individual lawsuits will be filed on behalf of inmates, as well as a lawsuit to start an investigation into the conditions of the detention center.
Jomo Johnson and a handful of followers waited until the end of the regular commission meeting to read aloud a prepared statement to the news cameras in the room, making sure he was within earshot of Sheriff Wilcher. Johnson, who claims to be an administrator of the National Black Lives Matter Movement in Savannah 'under care' of the Columbia, SC chapter, says what concerns their group is the lack of care, concern, and contrition for the deaths of black inmates at the Chatham County Detention Center.
Johnson pointed to the five deaths that have happened since Wilcher took office, saying they were preventable. Sheriff Wilcher defended his office afterward, explaining the circumstances behind the deaths that have happened since he's been in office.
"There are two whites and three blacks that have died since I've been in there, and those were natural, natural, suicide, suicide, suicide," the sheriff said. "You can't control peoples' minds. You don't ever know what they're gonna do."
Identifying at-risk inmates and following monitoring procedures by the book isn't enough for the group.
"What is troubling to many of us is the lack of care and lack of concern and lack of tears by Sheriff Wilcher for the death of continual black men," Johnson said.
Former Savannah City Council candidate Shaundra McKeithen weighed in on the comments, clearly not buying into the criticisms of the sheriff and his office.
"He just keeps rambling on Wilcher being unfit, but he can't elaborate on why he's unfit," McKeithen said.
Johnson says he has not spoken directly to Sheriff Wilcher about his group's concerns, saying it was against Black Lives Matter policy. Black Lives Matter has denied the local group's ties to the national movement, but Johnson insists they are operating 'under care' of the BLM Columbia, SC chapter.
"We personally have nothing against Sheriff Wilcher. We personally do not necessarily want a black sheriff; that is not our goal. We simply want a sheriff who can keep black men alive, or if something happens, is willing to show contrition and tears when those black men die," said Johnson.
"It's all part of the Open Records Act. Anybody who wants these right here, they're all part of the Open Records Act. And again, you have blacks and whites that have died in jail, some that have committed suicide and some that have died of natural causes," Sheriff Wilcher said. "I am not resigning. If y'all want me out of office, beat me in 2020. And I don't think you can," Wilcher said.
We're waiting to hear back from the BLM Columbia chapter on the claims of collaboration.