Harrison County

Anti-bullying rally planned for Saturday has been postponed for now

An anti-bullying event that had attracted more than 2,000 people who said they planned to attend on Saturday has been called off.

But the organizer, Laurie Carter, plans to hold the rally Sept. 16 at a location to be announced.

Carter is the woman who planned a public campaign to show support for Gulfport Raising Cane’s worker Jessica Pruitt, who was body-shamed by a stranger in a Facebook post, and other victims of bullying. Pruitt’s picture appeared on a stranger’s Facebook page earlier this month and was widely circulated.

Carter admittedly had no idea how to plan what appeared to be turning into a large event. And she had no idea of the process and cost of holding an event at Jones Park.

Saturday’s event was to be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Carter, a residential assistant at Brookdale senior living community, at first wanted to have it by the Jones Park splash pad so kids could play while grownups participated in the rally. She wasn’t expecting anything big. Then she decided she wanted to have a pavilion. Residents at Brookdale and other elderly people have told her they plan to attend.

“I can’t have people in their 80s and 90s sitting out in the heat,” Carter said.

The rental price for a pavilion is $1,500.

“I don’t have that kind of money,” Carter said.

Renting an event at Jones Park

City spokesman Chris Vignes said there is a process and a rental fee involved for all events at Jones Park, a top-tier destination for events on the Coast.

“There is a process to make sure every need for an event is taken care of so everyone is safe and happy and that traffic runs smoothly,” Vignes said.

The rental fee covers associated costs, such as putting out trash cans, having first-responders on hand, insurance, and routine operational and maintenance costs, he said. Some 55 events are on the books the rest of the year, including the Gulfport Music Festival, Vignes said.

Community centers across the city are available for a much lower rent, he said. Pavilions at West Side Park and Bayou View Park are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The city has a non-emergency 311 number people can call to check on city services, Vignes said.

Carter already had plans in place for the Gold Rush Dancers, a competitive team from Gulfport, and the Gulfport High varsity cheerleaders to perform to the rally’s theme song, “Firework” by Katy Perry.

She had planned for speakers, including Rip Daniels, community leader and owner of WJZD-FM 94.5,a radio station based in Gulfport. Several businesses had volunteered to show up with food.

Carter and Pruitt also plan to speak. Carter hopes it still goes off as planned, just somewhere else.

“I’m overwhelmed by the way so many people have responded and made plans to attend,” Carter said.

She has temporarily deleted a Facebook page dedicated to the rally, but plans to announce a new location soon.

Carter said the rally is for anyone who has ever been bullied.

Kids at school, bi-racial couples, members of the LGBT community, people with mental health issues and many others are often bullied, Carter said. And so are members of the “emo community,” those who wear all black, she said.

“The main thing is that we raise awareness to stand against bullies,” Carter said.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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