St. Pete's black community gathers to discuss recent police actions

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Whether they were black or white, regular folk, the well-heeled, proud working men in shirt sleeves or young women wearing hijabs; last night, at the Carter G. Woodson Museum : concerned citizens of all stripes came together for Don’t Shoot, Part II: A community conversation.

The museum’s magnolias and gentle lighting contrasted sharply with the hushed tones and grave faces of the mostly African-American group of 50 or so participants, gathered to grapple with the most horrific of current trends: the escalation of violence within the black community and use of lethal force by the policing community.

Consensus was reached on several key issues; conflict exists between blacks and the police, the rules of engagement need to be clear and currently aren't; that clear (federal) chains of command need to exist when racially charged events occur, and that information be honestly reported in a timely manner.

After two years, the Justice Department has yet to release its findings in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

Event organizer Carla Bristol said, “When we look at what’s really happening — it’s really all about these five key areas: the community’s response and the actions of the policing community, vilification of the victim, accountability, lack of independent investigation and the militarization of the police.”

She continued, “We are the authority, the community is the authority because we are tax paying citizens and we need to say, for the children, they are entitled to be treated in the same way I would be treated if I encountered a situation.”

The roundtable discussions are being held in conjunction with the exhibit “Endangered!” currently on display at the museum.

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