Residents of a small Mississippi town are voicing their concerns after a three-time convicted sex offender was chosen to be the grand marshall of their local Christmas parade.
The northern Mississippi town of Sardis, located just 53 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, has been putting on the parade for years, hosted by the town’s chamber of commerce.
This year, the chamber chose Michael Saripkin, a known sex offender, to be the grand marshall.
One resident, Carolyn Whaley, owns a small business on the parade route.
She told WMC-TV in Memphis that she didn’t mind Saripkin leading the parade, despite his past legal troubles.
“Everybody knows that: It’s a small town,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me. He’s a very nice, friendly man. He has donated more money, helped the fire department, helped the police department, encouraged businesses to come here.”
Another resident, however, had quite a different perspective on the situation.
“I didn’t like it,” the man told WMC. “I don’t think it’s very proper for a sex offender to be a grand marshal of a parade and I just thought it was wrong.”
WMC reported that Saripkin was “convicted of sexual battery in 1990 and statutory rape in 1997 — both in Tennessee.”
Then, in 2013, he was convicted in Mississippi for “inappropriately touching a child as a person of trust.”
The news station said Saripkin’s relationship to the child was unclear.
Chamber members interviewed by the station said they were aware of Saripkin’s past but said it didn’t matter.
What mattered, they said, is what he’s doing now.
City alderman Michael Price, moreover, made it clear to the news station, that the city government had nothing to do with the decision.
Price told WMC-TV, “It wasn’t a city event.”
“City doesn’t authorize the Christmas parade. The chamber has been handling that for years,” he said. “It wasn’t a city function.”
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