By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
The next evolution of the Civil Rights Movement is literally zooming into action. After the early contentious moments of organized, well choreographed, non violent protests following the death of George Floyd, last week Prince George’s County took the lead in trying to begin the process of social change and healing during a virtual town hall meeting.
A group of experienced panelists from politics, media and the legal community came together to begin a dialogue hoping to lay the foundation for significant change and reforms against a justice system that continues to marginalize the lives of African Americans with fatal consequences. During an expanded web chat that was moderated by WPGC-FM morning show personality Joe Clair and hosted by County Executive Angela Alsobrooks, the group began developing a blueprint for proactivity and accountability in hopes of leading to changes in law enforcement practices nationwide.
“The world will never be the same again,” said Alsobrooks in her first remarks during the virtual conversation. “Incidents like this involving George Floyd are happening all too often. The pain being felt now by everyone around the country and around the world signals a sign of change coming.”
Alsobrooks added that there needs to be fundamental changes in the screening process for those who are applying to join police forces in the United States. The County Executive added there needs to be revisions to the legal statutes governing the use of deadly force and more attention to the mental health of potential officers.
“The policeman’s bill of rights needs to be revisited,” Alsobrooks suggested. “We’ve got to do a better job with mental health screenings to determine the fitness of those who carry a gun to protect our community.”
State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy echoed the sentiments of her predecessor, Alsobrooks. Hours after three County officers were placed on administrative leave, following another incident in Langley Park that was caught on viral video, Braveboy said there must be more transparency to allow for prosecutors to legally break the shackles of overzealous policing.
“With the use of force laws differ from state to state [and] there has to be more transparency to allow prosecutors to do their job,” Braveboy said. “Since they can use deadly force, police need to be held accountable.”
Alsobrooks invited many of the County and State’s top elected officials who joined to express their dismay at the consistent fatalities that have defined the relations between Blacks and police officers for decades. Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer promised the U.S. House of Representatives would bring legislation to the floor within this month.
“After 400 years of carnage the treatment of Black men by police officers must stop,” Hoyer said. “Police who do wrong must be held to a higher standard.”
Meanwhile, TV Judge Greg Mathis and local attorney A. Scott Bolden shared personal experiences of confrontations they’ve had with police. Bolden said the antagonizing relationship with officers is a “broader sense of underlying racism” and encouraged parents who were on the call to “fearlessly discuss” how racism plays into police interactions with Black people.
“If you tolerate bad police, you are complicit,” Bolden said.
Mathis recalled an incident where he was “victimized” as a youth that leaves him traumatized today.
“I get nervous every time there’s a police car behind me,” Mathis said. “Black men from poor communities are looked upon as demons. Looting is a result of the shootings.”
WKYS morning show host Angie Ange and Rev. Tony
Lee issued the challenge to the younger residents to become more active in the process. Ange’s declaration to her generation of followers was to continue with their “proactivity and accountability,” which has been demonstrated during more than a week of protests.
Lee, meanwhile, urged the millennials to “find your voice,” through voting, community engagement and public service.