JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - In 2015, in the wake of the deaths of Hattiesburg police officers Liquori Tate and Benjamin Deen, Councilwoman Mary Dryden brought up concerns about a yearly convention taking place on the same weekend they were killed -- The BOS weekend, or Brothers of the Struggle.
“Members of an organization considered to be one of the most violent gangs in the country. A gang known to be anti police, and known for the sales of narcotics,” Dryden said at a city council meeting at the time.
This weekend the Brothers of the Struggle, which gang experts say are one in the same with the Gangster Disciples, will travel from all over the country to convene in Hattiesburg again, like they have for 17 years.
According to law enforcement, the Gangster Disciples have had a strong presence in Hattiesburg for many years, and according to the 2017 Gang Threat Assessment put out by the Fusion Center, the Gangster Disciples and their sets had the most convictions in Forrest County for the year before. No current numbers are yet available as the next Gang Threat Assessment is in the works for 2020. Statewide, they are the gang with the most documented members, and were founded by Larry Hoover, who was born in Jackson. He is now in federal prison in Colorado.
The Mississippi Association of Gang Investigators is one of the groups who has been gathering intelligence as the chatter has picked up on social media for months.
“We’ve been monitoring traffic, you’ve got people coming from Chicago, you’ve got people coming from Atlanta. They’re sending groups,” said MAGI Vice President Jimmy Anthony. “We’ve been monitoring their chatter through the Gang Association trying to keep up with the intelligence.”
Hattiesburg Police Department was unable to comment about the event, referring us to a press release from Hattiesburg City Hall that does not address the event but does have a line that says, “Public safety remains our number one priority, and Hattiesburg Police Department will increase patrols where necessary.”
Former HPD assistant chief Jim Kinslow started the Neighborhood Enforcement Team -- another name for the gang unit -- at HPD. Sources say the unit is no longer active, but Kinslow said the community responded to NET and helped out in every way they could.
“We were able to get it under control, the community is where we got our power,” Kinslow said. “The community wanted the change. They wanted the gangs gone.”
In recent months, Hattiesburg has had several crimes committed that police have openly admitted were tied to gang activity.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans field office William McCrary said the agency is aware of the event. He told us Gangster Disciples have been tied to violent criminal activity in many cities and states, including Hattiesburg. He would not say, however if any of his agents will be monitoring the situation.
Forrest County Sheriff’s Department said when the BOS weekend comes around each year, they’ve assisted HPD when things break out, but they haven’t had any problems with extra crime in the county. Lamar County said they’re always ready to assist, but they’ve never been called in for something that happened at a BOS party that Sheriff Danny Rigel knew about.
Hattiesburg is busy this weekend with the University of Southern Mississippi playing against Alcorn State University, so traffic could be thick. There will be all kinds of gatherings all over the city this weekend, and the same rules apply to all: All agree that the Brothers of the Struggle, whether they’re Gangster Disciples or not, have the same first amendment right to assemble peacefully as anyone else.
No need for the police if they don’t break the law, authorities said.