In May of 2003 churches from across Clay County gathered on a Sunday afternoon during dreary, rainy conditions to hold a march against drugs.
Nobody could have predicted what would happen that day. 3,500 people showed up for what many say was the largest single gathering in our county’s history. Nothing before had brought that many people together for one purpose.
As rain drizzled, the marchers sang songs of praise and carried signs glorifying Jesus Christ.
The walk culminated at Rawlings-Stinson Park where several pastors spoke and a prayer vigil was held.
It’s a rare occasion that 3,500 people can meet and agree on an issue. That day they did. The issue was eradicating drugs from our county.
Pastors Doug Abner, Ken Bolin and Wendall Carmack where leading the charge to the crowd about the fight on drugs.
“We had an official say if it rains, they won’t have 300 people show up,” Abner said in 2003. “He needs to come out here and count.”
It was evident to all, this group meant business. They weren’t intimidating by the political structure or power. This was an effort to save our county, our children and our families.
“This is a new day for Clay County. It’s time we quit being the butt of everything and go to the top. I’ve never been as proud of this county as I am today,” Abner said.
Bolin credited the march’s success as an example of the Almighty’s expertise.
“This is simply unbelievable,” he said. “When a man plans something on his own, it’s bound to fail. But when God’s behind something, you’re bound to see a turnout like this.”
The march spurred funding from U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers for Operation UNITE with hundreds being arrested over the next several years. The march also spurred a ‘Court Watch’ organization that would track and monitor cases through the court systems to assure those being arrested would be convicted.
The congressman’s assistant, Bob Mitchell, attended the march and had this to say, “I’m sure some drug dealers smiled this morning when they saw these dark clouds overhead. It’s raining on their parade.
The one thing nobody could predict was the fallout that started with this march. Federal authorities camped out in Manchester for the next five years and practically wiped out the political factions that had been in power for many years.
Elected officials, police officers and several others were indicted and served prison terms. Some who even participated in the march found themselves behind bars only months later on corruption charges.
The march didn’t come without its share of negativity in coming years. Many families were affected by the fallout of the event and hard feelings still exist today.
But, regardless of how you feel on the matter, the march changed the face of our county 14 years ago and we are still seeing it’s effects today.