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Hartford Police And Civilians Look To Avoid Violent Protests With Training

 

The deaths of black men at the hands of police have led to protests that sometimes turned violent in cities like Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland.

Some people worry Hartford, Connecticut could be home to the next violent protest. That’s why on Saturday, about 20 activists and five high ranking police officials came to a talk by the U.S. Department of Justice to avoid violence during protests.

The Department of Justice facilitator told activists to weed out people at their protests who are drinking, vandalizing property, or provoking the police, and to communicate with police about their plans to protest in advance. The idea was that activists could work with the police to keep their protests calm and civil.

Many seemed receptive to that idea. But activist Cornell Lewis, of Moral Mondays Connecticut, was skeptical. In June, 17 people in Lewis’ group were peacefully arrested by local police after they blocked a major street to protest racism in America.

“Why should we trust you?” he asked the facilitator. To WSHU, he said, “We’re not going to let the police or the justice department dictate the strategies we use to free ourselves from oppression.”

The City of Hartford and Connecticut State Police said their goal during a protest was to keep people safe while protecting their freedom of speech. Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley said police in the city were re-evaluating their tactics for handling protests and crowds. He also said that the police would give protest leaders space to handle problems on their own before officers stepped in.

“Things have changed across the country,” said Hartford Deputy Police Chief Brian Foley. “We don’t wear the vests, we don’t like the military look...we’re going to do everything we can to avoid any violence, not to spur any violence.”  

Kathie is a former editor at WSHU.
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