WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Members of the NAACP and Wilmington 10 rallied Tuesday night in support of pardons for the group, but one former police officer says there are questions that still need to be asked.
“It was wrong, and the right time to do right is right now,” said Rev. William J. Barber II, president of the NAACP’s State Conference.
One Wilmington 10 member, Connie Tindall, served five years in prison before his conviction was overturned.
“As bad as it is, it’s a good time, for at least now we’re beginning to get the recognition that we are due,” Tindall said.
However, one man says there is another side to the story. John Winecoff joined the Wilmington Police Department in May 1971, three months after the firebombing of Mike’s Grocery, which led to the Wilmington 10’s arrests. He feels the full story needs to be retold.
“I think that they did most of the violence,” Winecoff said. “I think right now they are after money and recognition. If these people didn’t do it, then who did?”
Tindall says there were people involved with the burning and shooting, but he was not one of them.
“I’m not a rat, so I don’t tell on anybody, but what I know I’ll go to the grave with,” Tindall said. “All I can say with all truth and sincerity is that it was not me.”
Supporters of the pardons say the state now has a chance to right their wrongs.
“The lies of injustice can’t destroy the truth the Wilmington 10 stood on,” Rev. Barber said. “Their memory is still here.”
The Wilmington 10 Pardons of Innocence Project hopes to collect 100,000 signatures on its petitions.
If granted pardons, each member could be compensated $50,000 for each year they spent in prison.