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The National Action Network (NAN) Holds Town Hall Meeting on Gun Violence
By  Shirley Hawkins Contributing Writer
Published July 28, 2016

 

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NAN panelists included special guest, television host Judge Greg Mathis; NAN Los Angeles President Rev.K.W. Tulloss; radio host Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson who moderated the event; Michael Cummings, president of NAN Watts; Vicki Lindsey of Project Cry No More, Reverend Bridgette Burns of the Cease Fire committee and LAPD police officers William B. Scott and Jerald Woodyard .

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Appalled by the rise of gun violence that continues to claim the lives of young black men as well as police in urban cities across the country, the National Action Network (NAN) held a community town hall meeting on July 18 to seek solutions.

NAN, a national organization that was founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton and meets at 6 p. m. every Monday at Concord church in Los Angeles, gathered together a panel of concerned community activists to discuss the problem.

Panelists included special guest, television host Judge Greg Mathis; NAN Los Angeles President Rev.K.W. Tulloss; radio host Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson who moderated the event; Michael Cummings, president of NAN Watts; Vicki Lindsey of Project Cry No More, Reverend Bridgette Burns of the Cease Fire committee and LAPD police officers William B. Scott and Jerald Woodyard .

“Although California is leading the way nationally in terms of gun control, a lot of work must still be done to get our communities safe again,” said Rev.Tulloss. “We are not anti-police, we are anti-police brutality.   We need to develop an agenda to save our babies.”

Concord Church Pastor Bill Hemphill was more blunt. “We done enough marching and talking, We need solutions,” he declared to the capacity crowd.

Patrick McFarland from Assembly member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas’ office said that there were several policy updates concerning gun violence that he wanted to share.

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“California was very quick in moving policy on gun control by passing gun laws and putting restrictions on semi-automatic weapons,” said McFarland. “Governor Brown has signed five bills regarding gun violence. He signed SB1225. Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas has issued AB2300, the arms and prohibitive bill to crack down on individuals who are not allowed to have guns.

“One action item that needs to be included is dialogue between the community and law enforcement to put pressure on lawmakers to crack down on gun laws,” McFarland pointed out. “Law enforcement and the community must work together to keep guns out of the community.”

Hutchinson said that gun violence is pervasive and local activists have protested for years on “many street corners” after a young black men have been shot and killed.  “I am enraged by these shootings. Don’t let anyone slander our community by saying we have been sleeping at the wheel,” he pointed out.

In response to the pervasive gun violence, Mathis said that he wholeheartedly supported the Black Lives Matter movement. “All lives matter, but Black Lives Matter was created to fight back against excessive force and police misconduct,” he pointed out. “It comes from the preposition that black folks don’t matter as much as other races because we are disproportionately jailed and killed.”

Mathis, who said that he served on the task force of Our Brother’s Keeper, president Barack Obama’s initiative to empower young men of color, added, “We found that many police perceive black men as angry, violent sexual predators which has led to a demonization of black men. Think about it–when you see a demon, you’re supposed to kill it,” he observed.

Mathis added, “Statistically, white folks are killed by white folks and black folks are killed by black folks. Where does crime come from? Crime is a result of poverty, a lack of opportunity and a lack of jobs—which helps to pipeline black men into the prison industrial complex.”

Mathis added, “Thank God that 97 percent of all police are great men and women. The knuckleheaded three percent of police who practice misconduct need to be removed from the police force. Lock them up.”

Hutchinson, who served on the police force for many years, observed, “I never used a gun, tazer or mace on citizens. I cared about life in the community. The cops practicing misconduct are making police look bad, so there’s a duty to expose them and to get rid of them.”

Many residents said they are looking forward to the police using body cameras to mitigate any misconduct that may occur. “The central police bureau will be the first police division testing body cameras,” said Woodyard.

Rev. Burns said that the community needs to be more proactive when it comes to combating gun violence. “Until we step up and say enough is enough, the gun violence will continue,” Rev. Burns observed.

Several audience members stood to express concern about their recent encounters with law enforcement.

Patricia, a volunteer at the 77th police division, observed, “Police don’t trust blacks and blacks don’t trust the police because they don’t make themselves available. The police need to establish trust in the communities they serve.”

“If you don’t trust each other, that distrust leads to fear, anger and violence,” Mathis responded. “Three percent of police officers have been found guilty of using excessive force. The bigger problem is that they get right back on the force.”

“When a policeman pulls me over, I’m in fear,” a male audience member confessed.”I want to know if the police are using procedures to de-escalate situations when they stop black men.”

“I have been pulled over many times, it makes you want to fight back,” said one frustrated male audience member, who said he had experienced verbal abuse from officers. “The police should to be polite and be accountable for their actions.”

 

Another audience member said she had been troubled by the recent headlines chronicling the fatal shootings of black men. “The police should shoot to maim–not to kill,” she urged.

‘I’m so fed up with the violence,” said an elderly coach who has worked with community youths for 19 years and said he was tired of attending funerals of young men “Don’t have the LAPD come to your home to discipline your child. We have to take over our homes and support our schools.”

Due to the recent rash of shootings around the country of black men by police, attorney Gary Falwell wondered about the psychological testing of recruits before they are accepted into the police force.

“Psychological testing is done by an outside group,” said Woodyard. “There are over 100 questions that they ask the potential candidate and they must also undergo a polygraph test as well. You’d be surprised at how many candidates are screened out, but there are still some candidates that get through and are accepted into the force.”

Cortez Chandler, a house manager/group facilitator for the Timelist Group, Inc, a transitional home for the formerly incarcerated in San Bernardino, said that had established Giving All Men Emotional Strength (G.A.M.E.S), a nonprofit formed to bring residents and police together.

“I want the police to come to meetings in regular clothes to dialogue with the residents,” he said. If you see a police out of uniform, they are more approachable and you see them more as human beings.”

Lindsey, a long-time activist, said she was all too familiar with gun violence. “My son Lionel was shot and killed on Nov. 19, 1995. His father was shot and killed on June 6, 1989. It has been 21 years since I lost my husband and son, but it still hurts. I had to go to the hospital to identify my son Lionel. His baby was born 12 days after he died,” said Lindsey, a Compton resident, who added that there is a high rate of gun violence n Compton. The activist said she is committed to combating gun violence. “This is my purpose driven life,” she said.

Cummings added, “There’s a lot of tension and pain in our community. People feel lost, they have no hope. We are doing everything we can to calm the gun violence situation down. We need to start a dialogue with cops all across the country and I strongly feel we need to call on the Justice Department to file charges so that people will know that something can be done.”

Panelists then offered solutions to offset some of the violence in the community.

“We can introduce ourselves to the police officers and let them know us in the community,” said Rev. Burns. “Take your money and put it in the schools.”

“Get involved in the schools,” Cummings also urged. “Get involved with the safe passage program, gang intervention groups and your neighborhood council.”

“Trust means knowing the officers in your community,” said Hutchinson.”There should also be transparency and accountability by police with the use of body cams. Get involved with the schools. Teach entrepreneurial skills to young people to help build our communities.”

“Get involved by choice and not by force,” added Lindsey. “The life you save may be your own.”

NAN meets every Monday at 6:00 p.m. at the NAM Western Regional Office located at Concord church 2828 W. Jefferson Blvd.

 

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