A crowd gathered at the Tupelo Furniture Market on Coley Road two days after that city issued an executive order discouraging crowds because of the coronavirus crisis.
According to signs posted within ten feet of the Coley Road pavement, a company called Dalton Christian Auctions was holding an auction of “drug seized” items. The signs had been in place at least as early as Friday, March 20.
Matt Laubhan, a meteorologist for Tupelo television station WTVA, called attention to the crowd gathered at the Coley Road site in a video posted on “social media” early Saturday afternoon, March 21.
A short time later, Laubhan quoted Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton as saying, “I have just issued an Executive Order to stop the auction at the Furniture Market. We have been waiting on uniform state action, but that is not coming, and we can no longer wait on the state to implement uniform protections that will apply equally to each county and city in the State of Mississippi.
“We will issue more Executive Orders due to the State’s failure to mandate any safety precautions outside of the school system across our state.”
NEMISS.NEWS spoke by telephone at 8:40 p.m. Saturday evening, May 21, to a man who identified himself as Dalton Christian, owner of the Okolona, MS based auction company.
He was first asked if he had held an auction Saturday at the Tupelo Furniture Market. He answered. “Yes. But we shut it down.”
Asked if he knew the city of Tupelo had issued an order two days earlier regarding avoiding gatherings of people because of the COVID-19 threat, Christian said, “We were not aware of it.”
Christian was then asked if he was aware there was a nationwide coronavirus crisis and that the news had been filled for several days with official warnings discouraging people from gathering in groups of more than ten. He did not answer, but terminated the phone call.
Sometime after Laubhan first exposed the situation, V.M. Cleveland, the CEO of Tupelo Furniture Market, issued this statement: “The event being held at the Tupelo Furniture Market is not being held by Tupelo Furniture Market. It is being held by Dalton Christian Auctions by their discretion.
“We have not been mandated to prevent events at our facility, however these events make their own decision. They are taking precautions by only allowing so many people into the lobby.
“We understand this is not OK, and we should have canceled ourselves. We are working on shutting it down.”
Mid-evening Saturday, March 21, Tupelo Mayor Shelton’s office said he was drafting another more restrictive order, but no copy of that anticipated order was available as this was posted.
NEMISS.NEWS asks this question: What will Mayor Shelton do to enforce his new order that he did not do to enforce his March 19th Tupelo Executive Order 20-004?Mayor Jason Shelton, Mayor promises order, Northeast MS news, Tupelo Furniture Market, Tupelo MS