By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
A group of 20, mostly women but including some men and children, marched along several Atmore streets last Thursday, October 15, shouting slogans and carrying placards to protest the fact that an area preacher — accused of sexually abusing several teenage boys — remains free on bond and continues to minister his two churches, including one in Atmore.
Garyl Jermaine Gibbs, 47, of Monroeville, who pastors Call to Life Apostolic Church in Monroeville and on Alabama 21 in Atmore, was indicted in March by a Monroe County grand jury on one count of first-degree sodomy and two counts of second-degree sodomy after an investigation that began here.
He was arrested again in June by Monroe County authorities and charged with four more counts of first-degree sodomy and two more counts of second-degree sodomy.
The group was led by Christina McCaskill, whose son came forth earlier this year with the initial allegations against Gibbs.
“The basic reason we organized this march is that there are several young boys going to that church, and their parents refuse to let them be questioned by the police, the district attorney or anybody,” McCaskill said. “These people have defended (Gibbs) and scandalized the victims. We want people to know what kind of person he really is. We feel he should be somewhere locked up.”
Gibbs was freed in March after $75,000 bond was posted in Gibbs’ behalf, reportedly by the church’s congregation. His bond was set at $750,000 after the June arrest, and again the church members reportedly bailed him out.
“The church members bailed him out both times. He’s still running those churches, doing his own thing, like there’s nothing going on,” McCaskill said.
Several phrases — including “Gibbs must go,” “no pedophiles in Atmore,” and “save our children” — rang out as the marchers left Atmore City Hall’s parking lot, then traversed Ridgeley, Main and Trammell streets before circling city hall and ending at their initial starting point.
Justin Smith, who carried his 3-year-old son on his shoulders, and Bria Montgomery, who pushed her 2-year-old daughter, Briella, in a stroller, both said they took part in the march to try and prevent their children from becoming victims.
“I’m taking part in this because we need to save our children,” said Smith, while Montgomery said, “It’s important that we save our kids.”
McCaskill said the protest had two basic goals, to get Gibbs back behind bars and to raise awareness that even the most trusted individual could be a sexual abuser.
“It’s not just Gibbs, although it all stemmed from him,” the Atmore woman said. “We’re taking a stand against sexual abuse. It is hard to believe (the charges against the minister), because he is a dynamic preacher. He can prophesy your eyeballs out. But at the end of the day, he’s still violating young men, and we just won’t stand for it.”
Gibbs had not replied by Tuesday’s press deadline to a voice message left on the Atmore church’s telephone answering machine.
News photo by Ditto Gorme