The mayor of Waterbury, Connecticut, hosted a virtual community conversation with police, clergy and politicians Monday. That’s after officers arrested 28 protesters at a peaceful rally for George Floyd on Sunday.
Pastor Kelsey Hopson represented Mount Olive AME Zion in Waterbury. He says the protests should start an ongoing dialogue between police and the community about violence.
“Unfortunately when injustice is out of sight, sometimes it’s out of mind. And when all people, when we own the issue, such that we’re able to look upon our communities, we can be moved with compassion. That’ll then help us to move towards real transformation.”
Hopson says Waterbury Police could hire more black, Latino and female officers, and the state could pass more accountability laws.
U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes of Connecticut was also on the call. She says she knows it is difficult to talk about race and policing, especially because she is married to a local officer.
“But we have to have those conversations, and I think they start by just listening. Not asking people to validate how they feel, or explain it away, or help for you to understand, but just to listen, ‘this is what my experiences are in my community’ and then to take that information and to figure out ‘okay, how do I provide solutions and close those gaps?”
Hayes says she also hopes local African American residents can one day feel comfortable joining the local police force and that could help reestablish trust with the black community, and reform police from within.
Hayes was the first African American woman elected to represent Connecticut in Congress.
Meanwhile, Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn Wooden says the video of Floyd being killed should lead to national action. He was speaking at a launch of a COVID-19 testing site in Hartford.
Wooden compared it to the historic lynching of 14-year-old African American Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955.
“I am hopeful that this may be an Emmett Till moment in America. Where all Americans see this for the despicable hatred and violence of what it is. And that we go beyond this moment. And that we talk about criminal justice reform.”
Wooden is the only African American elected to a statewide office in Connecticut.
He hopes lawmakers use this as an opportunity to take action on longstanding racial disparities in employment, housing and access to healthcare.