TIME Crime

Georgia Postpones 2 Executions Over ‘Cloudy’ Drugs

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Georgia's supply of lethal injection drug pentobarbital may have gone bad

Georgia indefinitely postponed two executions Tuesday to allow officials to analyze its current batch of lethal injection drugs, which “appeared cloudy” prior to an execution that had been scheduled Monday night.

The execution of Kelly Gissendaner, who would’ve been the first woman put to death in the state in 70 years, was called off by the Georgia Department of Corrections Monday night after the state discovered its supply of pentobarbital, a short-acting barbiturate, looked murky.

Georgia officials made the decision after consulting with a pharmacist, according to The New York Times, even though state officials said that its pentobarbital supply had been tested and was cleared for use.

MORE: Georgia Convict First to Be Executed After Botched Oklahoma Lethal Injection

The state then announced Tuesday that the executions of both Gissendaner and Brian Keith Terrell, who was set to die by lethal injection on March 10 for the 1992 murder of John Henry Watson, were indefinitely postponed. Gissendaner was convicted of arranging the 1997 murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.

A number of states have had trouble carrying out executions due to problems obtaining drugs. A series of lawsuits from death row inmates who are challenging the constitutionality of states’ lethal injection protocols have also led to stays of execution nationwide.

MORE: Ohio Looks to Shield Lethal Injection Drugmakers

Like many states, Georgia has turned to compounding pharmacies, which are not under federal oversight, for their drug supplies while also passing a secrecy law that keeps participating pharmacies anonymous. Georgia has not released the name of its drug supplier, and it’s unclear when its current batch of pentobarbital was due to expire.

TIME georgia

Execution of Georgia Woman Postponed Over Problems With Drug

Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections
Reuters Death-row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections

Georgia only uses pentobarbital for lethal injections, but there are some problems

(JACKSON, Ga.) — Georgia postponed its first execution of a woman in 70 years late Monday because of concerns about the drug to be used in the lethal injection.

The pentobarbital was sent to an independent lab to check its potency and the test came back at an acceptable level, but during subsequent checks it appeared cloudy, Georgia Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gwendolyn Hogan said. Corrections officials called the pharmacist and decided to postpone the execution “out of an abundance of caution,” she said. No new date was given.

Pentobarbital is the only drug used in Georgia executions. For other recent executions, the state has gotten the drug from a compounding pharmacy, but officials did not immediately respond late Monday when asked if that was the source in this case. Georgia law prohibits the release of any identifying information about the source of execution drugs or any entity involved in an execution.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner was scheduled to be executed at 7 p.m. at the prison in Jackson for the February 1997 slaying of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner. The execution was put on hold while officials waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to either grant or deny a stay requested by her lawyers. The court had still not ruled more than five hours later.

Her lawyers were seeking a delay pending a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case out of Oklahoma, and an appellate court had rejected that request. Late Monday, the lawyers added additional arguments for the high court: that it should consider a stay because Gissendaner didn’t kill her husband, Douglas Gissendaner, herself in February 1997. They also argued that she had been thoroughly rehabilitated.

Previously, courts had found Gissendaner had plotted the stabbing death of her husband by her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, who will be up for parole in eight years after accepting a life sentence and testifying against her.

Gissendaner would have been only the 16th woman put to death nationwide since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976. About 1,400 men have been executed since then, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence, denied clemency last week and upheld that decision late Monday. Gissendaner’s lawyers had urged the board to reconsider and “bestow mercy” by commuting her sentence to life without parole. The board said it voted to abide by its earlier decision after “careful consideration” of the request.

Kelly and Douglas Gissendaner had a troubled relationship, repeatedly splitting up and getting back together, divorcing and remarrying. At the time of her husband’s death, Gissendaner was a 28-year-old mother of three children, 12, 7 and 5 years old. And she had an on-again, off-again lover in Owen.

Rather than divorcing her husband again, Gissendaner repeatedly pushed Owen to kill him, prosecutors said. Acting on her instructions, Owen ambushed her husband while she went out with friends, and forced him to drive to a remote area. Then he marched him into the woods and stabbed him multiple times, prosecutors said.

Owen and Gissendaner then met up and set fire to the dead man’s car in an attempted cover-up. Both initially denied involvement, but Owen eventually confessed and testified against his former girlfriend.

Her lawyers challenged the constitutionality of her sentence as disproportionate, given that she wasn’t there when Owen killed her husband, and yet Owen will eventually be eligible for parole. But Georgia’s Supreme Court voted 5-2 Monday to deny her motion, citing Owen’s testimony that she pushed for murder rather than divorce so that she could get her husband’s insurance money.

In their request Monday for reconsideration, Gissendaner’s lawyers said the parole board did not have a chance to hear the overwhelmingly positive testimony of many corrections employees who declined to speak up for fear of retaliation.

Her clemency petition already included testimonials from dozens of spiritual advisers, inmates and prison staff who described a seriously damaged woman transformed through faith behind bars. She has shown remorse and provided hope to struggling inmates while helping guards maintain control, they said.

“The spiritual transformation and depth of faith that Ms. Gissendaner demonstrates and practices is a deep and sincere expression of a personal relationship with God,” Prison chaplain Susan Bishop wrote. “It is not a superficial religious experience.”

Two of Gissendaner’s three children also asked the board to spare their mother’s life, describing their own emotional journey from anger and bitterness to forgiveness.

“The impact of losing my mother would be devastating. I can’t fathom losing another parent,” wrote her daughter, Kayla Gissendaner. “My mom has touched so many lives. Executing her doesn’t bring justice or peace to me or to anyone.”

But it also has been “a long, hard, heartbreaking road” for Douglas Gissendaner’s parents and sister, according to a statement from them issued through the Gwinnett County district attorney’s office. The family made it clear they wanted the execution to go forward.

Several dozen people gathered outside the prison in support of Gissendaner, including some women who served time with her.

Kara Tragesser recalled Gissendaner telling her “You can do better!” when she was put on lockdown while serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery.

“We’re here because Kelly’s made a difference in our lives,” Tragesser said.

Michelle Collins, who did time for forgery, remembered Gissendaner persuading her to stop misbehaving and start caring about her future.

“She looked around at us and said, ‘At least y’all are going to get out of here again. Who are you to throw your lives away when I’m never going to get out of here?'” said Collins.

“She gave me the will to do something good when I got out,” said Collins, adding that she now makes good money working for a Fortune 500 company. “She told me to make sure I never came back and I never have.”

A loud cheer came up from the crowd gathered outside the prison when they heard the execution had been postponed.

TIME Crime

Execution of Georgia Woman on Hold Pending Supreme Court Ruling

Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections
Georgia Department of Corrections/Reuters Death row inmate Kelly Renee Gissendaner is seen in an undated picture from the Georgia Department of Corrections.

The execution is on hold

(JACKSON, Ga.) — The execution of the first female in Georgia in 70 years was on hold Monday as the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed last-minute arguments by her lawyers that they hoped would persuade the nation’s top justices to grant a stay.

Kelly Renee Gissendaner, 46, was scheduled to die by injection of pentobarbital at 7 p.m. in the state prison for the February 1997 murder of her husband, Douglas Gissendaner.

Still pending was a response from the high court after an appellate court rejected her lawyers’ request for a delay on the grounds that Georgia’s lethal-injection procedures aren’t transparent enough to be challenged in court. Late Monday, her lawyers also added that the court should take into account the fact that she didn’t kill her husband herself, and that she had been thoroughly rehabilitated.

Previously, courts had found Gissendaner had plotted the stabbing death of her husband by her boyfriend, Gregory Owen, who will be up for parole in eight years after accepting a life sentence and testifying against her.

Gissendaner would be only the 16th woman put to death nationwide since the Supreme Court allowed the death penalty to resume in 1976. About 1,400 men have been executed since then, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, the only entity authorized to commute a death sentence, denied clemency last week and upheld that decision late Monday. The woman’s lawyers had urged the board to reconsider and “bestow mercy” by commuting her sentence to life without parole. The board said it voted to abide by its earlier decision after “careful consideration” of the request.

Kelly and Douglas Gissendaner had a troubled relationship, repeatedly splitting up and getting back together, divorcing and remarrying. She was a 28-year-old mother of three children, 12, 7 and 5 years old. And she had an on-again, off-again lover in Owen.

In prison, Gissendaner eventually took responsibility: Rather than divorcing her husband again, she pushed Owen to kill him. Acting on her instructions, Owen ambushed her husband while she went out dancing with friends, and forced him to drive to a remote area. Then he marched him into the woods and stabbed him multiple times, prosecutors said.

Owen and Gissendaner then met up and set fire to the dead man’s car in an attempted cover-up, and both initially denied involvement, but Owen eventually confessed and testified against his former girlfriend.

Her lawyers challenged the constitutionality of her sentence as disproportionate, given that she wasn’t there when Owen killed her husband, and yet Owen will eventually be eligible for parole. But Georgia’s Supreme Court voted 5-2 Monday to deny her motion, citing Owen’s testimony that she pushed for murder rather than divorce so that she could get her husband’s insurance money.

In their request Monday for reconsideration, Gissendaner’s lawyers said the parole board did not have a chance to hear the overwhelmingly positive testimony of many corrections employees who declined to speak up for fear of retaliation.

Her clemency petition already included testimonials from dozens of spiritual advisers, inmates and prison staff who described a seriously damaged woman transformed through faith behind bars. She has shown remorse and provided hope to struggling inmates while helping guards maintain control, they said.

“The spiritual transformation and depth of faith that Ms. Gissendaner demonstrates and practices is a deep and sincere expression of a personal relationship with God,” Prison chaplain Susan Bishop wrote. “It is not a superficial religious experience.”

Two of Gissendaner’s three children also asked the board to spare their mother’s life, describing their own emotional journey from anger and bitterness to forgiveness.

“The impact of losing my mother would be devastating. I can’t fathom losing another parent,” wrote her daughter, Kayla Gissendaner. “My mom has touched so many lives. Executing her doesn’t bring justice or peace to me or to anyone.”

But it also has been “a long, hard, heartbreaking road” for Douglas Gissendaner’s parents and sister, and they made it clear they want the execution to go forward, the Gwinnett County district attorney’s office said.

More than a dozen women who served time with Gissendaner gathered outside the prison to support her Monday afternoon.

Kara Tragesser recalled Gissendaner telling her “you can do better!” when she was put on lockdown while serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery.

“We’re here because Kelly’s made a difference in our lives,” Tragesser said.

Michelle Collins, who did time for forgery, remembered Gissendaner persuading her to stop misbehaving and start caring about her future.

“She looked around at us and said, ‘At least y’all are going to get out of here again. Who are you to throw your lives away when I’m never going to get out of here?'” said Collins.

“She gave me the will to do something good when I got out,” said Collins, adding that she now makes good money working for a Fortune 500 company. “She told me to make sure I never came back and I never have.”

TIME Crime

Georgia Shooting Leaves 3 Dead, 2 Wounded, Questions Unanswered

Joey Terrell
Habersham County Sheriff's Department/AP Sheriff Joey Terrell of Habersham County, Ga.

The gunfight apparently pitted a former sheriff's deputy against the sheriff

Authorities were attempting to piece together Monday the sequence of events in a shooting incident in Georgia over the weekend that left three people dead and a sheriff and his deputy injured.

Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell and deputy William Zigan found a woman dead on Sunday while investigating a domestic disturbance at the Clarkesville home of former deputy Anthony Gianquinta, according to local news reports. The woman was later identified as Gianquinta’s ex-wife.

The officers fled the scene after a suspect, believed to be Gianquinta, shot and wounded both of them. When law enforcement officials returned to the scene later, Gianquinta and a third, unidentified man were both dead on the premises.

Both Terrell and Zigan were hospitalized at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and were said to be improving.

[NBC News]

TIME Infectious Disease

Georgia Gets First Case of Measles in 3 Years

National case numbers reach over 120

Georgia’s Department of Public Health confirmed on Monday that the state has its first case of measles since 2012.

An infant who traveled to Atlanta from outside the country is now being treated for the disease at Egleston Hospital at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA).

State officials, the hospital, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Prevention (CDC) are working together to identify other people who may have been exposed to the disease.

According to the health department, over 98% of incoming kindergarteners in the state have received all their school-mandated shots, including the full two doses of the measles vaccine.

New numbers released by the CDC on Monday show there are currently 121 cases of measles from 17 states, an outbreak which reportedly began at a Disneyland resort in southern California.

“We don’t need to be alarmists. We need to be aware,” said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, director of Health Protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health said in a statement. “What happened in Disneyland is an alert that we live in a world now in which international travel is very common and frequent, and diseases are only hours away.”

 

TIME celebrity

‘Inconsolable’ Bobby Brown Praying for Daughter to Regain Consciousness

56th GRAMMY Awards - Solstice Sunglasses and Safilo USA At GRAMMY Gift Lounge - Day 3
Tiffany Rose—Wire Image/Getty Bobbi Kristina Brown wearing Carrera by Jimmy Choo sunglasses with the Solstice Sunglasses and Safilo USA display at the Grammy Gift Lounge during the 56th Grammy Awards at Staples Center on Jan. 25, 2014, in Los Angeles

Bobbi Kristina Brown has been unconscious since Saturday

Family members of Bobbi Kristina Brown, the 21-year-old daughter of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, are waiting for a “miracle” as she remains on a respirator with scant brain activity. Brown was found unconscious Saturday in her bathtub at her home in Roswell, Ga., reports a PEOPLE exclusive.

“This is [Bobby’s] worst nightmare,” a family source told PEOPLE. “Losing Whitney [Houston] was hard, but this is a million times worse, and to lose her in the same way would devastate him.”

Read PEOPLE’s coverage here.

TIME

Man Cited for Eating a Cheeseburger While Driving

87992980
Getty Images Double cheeseburger

Put out an APB on a royale with cheese

Drive-thru enthusiasts, let this be a warning. A man got a ticket in an Atlanta suburb last week, after a police officer observed him driving for two miles while eating a cheeseburger — specifically, a double quarter pounder with cheese.

“[The officer] said specifically three times, you can’t just go down the road eating a hamburger,” Madison Tuner told WSB-TV. “Maybe I was enjoying the burger too much I needed to tone it down. I was certainly willing to do so but I didn’t expect to be fined or punished.”

Turner, from Alabama, was cited by Cobb County authorities for violating Georgia distracted driving laws, and will have his day in court on Feb. 3. The amount that Turner will have to pay was unclear.

A 2012 study from out of the University of Leeds found that drivers have a 44% slower reaction time than usual. That’s more significant than using a phone (which decreases reaction time by 37.4%) and alcohol at the legal limit (which slows things by 12.5%).

And for those who have beef with the food in question — “Maybe if you had a giant pizza in both hands and you weren’t holding the wheel or maybe if you had a watermelon, half watermelon and you were just diving into it holding it with both hands, maybe that would be something,” a traffic attorney told WSB-TV — a 2009 study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 80% of all car accidents involved drivers who were eating. The biggest food culprit was burgers.

[WSB-TV]

TIME Civil Rights

The Atlanta World of Dr. Martin Luther King

Dr. King Addresses Meeting
Robert W. Kelley—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a protest meeting in Atlanta in 1957

Growing up, King’s middle-class background offered some insulation from brutalities of the Jim Crow system — but there were no guarantees

The Auburn Avenue neighborhood where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in January 1929 was both a spatial and human embodiment of Atlanta’s paradoxical reputation for both strict racial segregation and black economic success. Noted journalist and renowned apostle of the “New South,” Henry W. Grady, may have strained the credulity of his New York audience in 1886 when he insisted that he bore no resentment toward his beloved Atlanta’s arch-nemesis, General William Tecumseh Sherman, but Grady’s claim that “from the ashes he left us … we have raised a brave and beautiful city” was more than the idle boast of a shameless booster. Atlanta’s speedily restored railroad connections and postbellum emergence as the Southeast’s principal trade and transportation hub all but assured its magnetic allure. By 1900 it was home to 90,000 people, more than a third of whom were black. A bloody race riot in 1906 left at least a dozen and quite likely more black Atlantans dead, yet — with the city’s “Forward Atlanta,” crusade for economic growth proceeding apace — the city’s black population nonetheless continued to swell. It stood at 90,000 by the time King was born into a well-established black middle class of merchants, lawyers, educators (the city boasted six private black colleges well before 1900) and ministers, concentrated in the city’s West Side on and around Auburn Avenue, which a prominent resident once called “the richest Negro street in the world.”

If Atlanta had established a reputation as a relative mecca of upward mobility for black Georgians looking to better themselves materially, it had proved no less a font of opportunity for those of a more spiritual bent, including the infant King’s father and maternal grandfather, both of whom had been born into sharecropping families in nearby rural counties. Martin (né Michael) Luther King Sr. had arrived in Atlanta as an aspiring, though scarcely literate, young minister in 1918. His determined efforts to improve himself and his circumstances did not suffer in the least from his fortuitous marriage to Alberta Williams, whose own father’s meager rural origins had not prevented him from building his small congregation into the powerful Ebenezer Baptist Church, where, upon his death in 1931, he would be succeeded in the pulpit by his son-in-law. Growing up, the younger Martin’s solidly middle-class background offered some insulation from brutalities of the Jim Crow system, but there were no guarantees. Scarcely a year after King was born, Dennis Hubert, a sophomore at Morehouse College and also the son of a prominent black minister, was brutally murdered for allegedly insulting two young white women. For all this atrocity said about the limitations of middle-class standing for the city’s blacks, the young man’s white killers were arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison, an outcome highly unlikely, to say the least, in any rural county anywhere in the state at that point.

It was not surprising that a historian of that era found Atlanta “quite evidently not proud of Georgia” or that, across the state, all but a very few whites heartily reciprocated the sentiment. Indeed, this was the primary reason that Georgia’s overwhelming rural legislative majority had taken formal action in 1917 to quarantine the capital city’s insidious racial and political moderation. This was accomplished through the brazenly anti-urban artifice of the “county-unit” electoral system, which effectively guaranteed that the preferences of voters in Atlanta, population 270,000 in 1930, could be neutralized completely by those of voters in the state’s three smallest counties, which had a combined population of scarcely 10,000.

This was a situation tailor-made for a rustic, race-baiting demagogue like Eugene Talmadge. Peppering his speeches with the N word, stonewalling efforts to improve the schools, and reveling in the impotent rebukes of “them lying Atlanta newspapers,” Talmadge claimed the governorship for the first of four times in 1932.

For all he might have done to impede progress across the state as a whole, however, Talmadge’s impact on Atlanta itself was notably less severe. Despite the economic reversals of the Great Depression, the infusions of cash from a variety of New Deal programs had already paid off for Atlantans by the end of the 1930s, with a greatly expanded and modernized infrastructure and dramatic improvement in schools, hospitals and other public institutions. The overpowering urge to show the world that Atlanta was back and better than ever was more than apparent in December 1939 when the film version of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind premiered at the Loew’s Grand Theater. In keeping with the city’s now well-known penchant for self-promotion, PR-savvy Mayor William B. Hartsfield spared no exertion to assure a glittery Hollywood presence for the event including, of course, Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and the film’s other white actors. Fearing repercussions from local whites, however, he extended no such hospitality to Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen or other black cast members. In the end, the only black participants of note in the entire affair were the members of the choir at the Ebenezer Baptist Church, including the son of its pastor. Just shy of his 10th birthday, Martin King sang along as, in keeping with the film’s blatant racial stereotyping, the group, dressed as slaves, performed spirituals for an all-white audience at a Junior League charity gala.

King and Hartsfield would cross paths frequently in the years to come. Under Hartsfield’s leadership, Atlanta would leave a racially fraught Birmingham, Ala., in its dust as it rode the crest of World War II economic expansion to undisputed pre-eminence as the South’s most dynamic city. Steadily changing with the times, the popular and uber-connected Hartsfield would draw on his gift for orchestration again and again as he presided over the desegregation of downtown businesses and the city’s tiny but notably uneventful first steps toward integrating its public schools. Meanwhile, returned to share Ebenezer’s bully pulpit with his father, the younger Rev. King began to cast doubt on the mayor’s vaunted claim that his city was “too busy to hate” by consistently pushing the envelope of social change further and faster than Hartsfield had envisioned. Though Atlanta had provided a unique environment in which King could become the man he was, the city still had a ways to go.

Atlanta had found its breezy, boosterist persona in the artful and charming Hartsfield. It would be slower, however, to acknowledge its conscience — the 1964 Nobel laureate who, the day after returning from Oslo amid global acclaim, forfeited the acclaim of the local business establishment by venturing scarcely two blocks from his church to join workers picketing for better wages at the city’s Scripto Pen Company. Ironically, but surely fittingly as well, some 30 years later, the plant’s remains would be bulldozed in order to provide parking for visitors to the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District.

James C. Cobb is Spalding Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Georgia and a former president of the Southern Historical Association.

TIME society

Growing Up in Atlanta, Every Day Was MLK Day

martin-luther-king-jr
Getty Images Martin Luther King, Jr.

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

"If you grow up black in King's hometown, you can't help but see his story intertwine with your own"

To grow up in Atlanta is to be always aware of the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to see it intertwine with your own fate.

I was born there in 1978, less than a mile from the house where King grew up. As a schoolchild, I like others, visited Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue—the street where King was born, worked, died, and is honored. To see King’s neighborhood, and the home he was born in, humanized him for us children, letting us know that he was once young like us, wrestling with classes and playing with siblings. We went to the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King declared, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” and to the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization he led until his death in 1968. We visited the King Center built by his widow to spread King’s nonviolent doctrine, and saw the eternal flame that burns near his tomb and reminds us that his work endures.

My grandparents—native Floridians who first came to Atlanta as college students in the late 1930s—and my mother tried to shield my brother and me from the indignities they suffered during the era of Jim Crow. They did this mostly by trying to give us a better life; I seldom spoke to them about the racism they endured. But the living history was everywhere in Atlanta, and the frequency with which I saw King’s lieutenants and associates on television reminded me of both the progress we’d achieved and the work still left to be done. John Lewis, for example, was leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he was gassed and beaten badly on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, during the start of a march to the state capitol that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” But he went on to represent Atlanta as a U.S. congressman and has fought for decades to preserve the Voting Rights Act he, King, and hundreds of foot soldiers helped usher into law.

When I became a journalist, I found myself gravitating toward telling the stories of black people, and focusing specifically on the legacy of the civil rights movement. As a college student, I got my first reporting job at the Atlanta Daily World, a black newspaper first published in 1928. The office was on Auburn Avenue—the same street I’d first visited as a child. I was working blocks away from where King worked.

By taking on civil rights as a beat in Atlanta, I not only had a front row seat to history, but the ability to ask those who lived it how they felt about current-day racial struggles. It was an extraordinary opportunity.

Even though I have left Atlanta, I carry all this history with me. This fall, almost a half-century after the enactment of the federal Civil Rights Act that King supported, I spent a few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri, as a reporter for Fusion covering the Michael Brown shooting and the ensuing protests.

From the day I arrived, the parallels between the Ferguson context and that of King’s struggles were everywhere.

Even though segregation is no longer legal and discussion of the civil rights movement has appeared in textbooks for decades, I still found neighborhoods in Ferguson so divided along color lines that I thought I had stepped into those black-and-white TV images of the 1960s I had seen. In the same way Bull Connor referred to King and other protesters as “outside agitators” in Birmingham, authorities and some residents in Ferguson referred to “outsiders” and the “negative influence of the media” on the African-American community—as if this community had no grounds to be unhappy of their own volition with the status quo before August 9, 2014. I talked to people on both sides of the racial divide who did not know each other’s daily lives.

The way the police deployed tear gas, dogs, smoke bombs, and riot gear certainly reminded me of stories I’d been told by people like Lewis. Images of clashing police and protesters in Ferguson—and the real-time reactions on social media—reminded me of the nation’s horror at the sight of water hoses, clubs, and snarling dogs 50 years before.

The Ferguson rallies, both there and elsewhere in the country, were full of young people—much like those during the civil rights movement. But there were important differences, too. Unlike the masses who rallied around King in Alabama, there was no single leader of the protests I covered in Ferguson night after night. The shooting of Michael Brown had been the catalyst, but inequality—and specifically unequal treatment of black people in the criminal justice system—was the real subject, one with many stories to tell.

During the 1960s, the black church had a central role, serving as the moral foundation of the movement. In Ferguson, churches served as the site of several rallies and meetings, and preachers could regularly be seen keeping the peace on the front lines during protests. But the burgeoning movement was neither started nor maintained through the church.

And while the protesters on West Florissant Avenue were mostly peaceful demonstrators, there were some who would have disappointed King—looting, committing arson, firing guns.

There are some who think of the events in Ferguson as an isolated incident, simply a moment in time. But to me it seemed like part of the continuum in the struggle for progress in our country. When I interviewed King’s aides, they were always quick to mention that the civil rights movement didn’t die with King; it’s ongoing. While our nation has made racial progress, we still have far to go before we achieve full equality among America’s citizens. The reaction to what happened in Ferguson exposed that chasm anew.

Errin Whack is a journalist whose articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous outlets, including Fusion News, The Guardian, The Associated Press, and The Washington Post. She currently serves as vice president of print for the National Association of Black Journalists and lives in Washington, D.C. She wrote this for What It Means to Be American, a national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Watch a Mourning Dog Standing Guard Over Her Puppy’s Grave

A stray dog in Georgia refuses to leave her puppy's grave in Georgia

A stray dog in Georgia has taken residence in Savannah’s Laurel Grove North Cemetery after burying her deceased puppy among the headstones, reports The New York Daily News.

Aspiring photographer Hunter Cone, 15, first spotted the mother dog sitting beside her late pup while he was taking photos in the cemetery on Jan. 6. Cone returned with his mother to try and feed the mourning animal, but she ran off.

Cone came back again the following day, and found the dog standing guard in the same spot, but now with her puppy buried next to her.

“She wouldn’t let us get within seven feet of her,” Hunter told the Daily News. “She wasn’t aggressive. She didn’t bark at us or anything.”

Rescuers have been feeding the dog and working to safely remove the grieving mom from the cemetery and into a shelter, even bringing in another puppy to distract the canine. So far attempts to lure the dog away from her own puppy’s grave have not been fruitful.

“If this doesn’t prove that dogs have feelings, just like humans do, I don’t think anything else will,” said Cone.

Along with wanting to help the mourning stray, Cone hopes this story raises awareness about Georgia’s animal control laws, which prevent rescue groups from taking in strays unless the group is contracted by the government.

This article originally appeared on People.com.

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