Jamestown, New York, was an island in the storm of America on Sunday afternoon as conversation interrupted confrontation during a rally held to protest the death of George Floyd.
The rally came after a Saturday night in which nearby Buffalo was witness to the kind of arson and looting that rioters inflicted on many major cities.
But there was something different at this protest.
Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist, Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings and Chautauqua County Sheriff Jim Quattrone attended to respond to the issues raised by the protesters.
“You see protests all across this state and I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the mayor and police chief come in and answer your questions,” Sundquist said, according to Western NY News Now. “We gotta start somewhere.”
“I’m so appreciative of our mayor showing up, our sheriff, our captain,” protest organizer Rev. Chloe Smith of God and Zion Tabernacle Church said.
“We’re so appreciative that the leadership of this community came out to say, ‘We are united with you, we see the changes that need to take place and that we are willing to make those changes.’ They are in agreement that this is just the beginning of what needs to be done.”
“Lord we thank you for this time when we’re able to gather together in unity as a community to demand change. This is Pentecost. This is Pentecost. So Holy Spirit come and bring truth, come and bring life, come and bring love, come and bring unity. We call on you Lord right now,” she said.
“Holy Spirit wind blow across this community! We need you now. Bless each household represented. Bless each mother, each father, grandmother, grandfather, bless each child under the sound of my voice. Lord we speak revival over this community.
“We speak life. We speak life. We speak life, in the name of Jesus! Amen!”
Pastor Chloe Smith, one of the organizers for the event, asked that those gathered kneel for a closing prayer before marching around the block and up to the road to Sixth Street where they’ve been stationed since the rally ended. #GeorgeFloydProtests pic.twitter.com/OW4g5PDXoK
— Cameron Hurst (@CameronNHurst) May 31, 2020
Sundquist said that reforms protesters want begin with dialogue.
“We are going to continue that conversation, we are going to start to reach out to folks to bring people together, to make sure we figure out what we need to do to be more inclusive and make sure we are representing everyone here in this community,” he said.
He added that it was important for local leaders to attend.
“As communities across the country start to protest and start to demand more things, we wanted to let our entire community know that myself and our entire police force are hear to listen actively and to start to make changes to be more inclusive here in the city,” Sundquist said, according to WRFA.
“We are here to engage in a dialogue with our community,” he said during the event.
One concern expressed was that a little over a third of the town’s police force police are Jamestown residents.
Sundquist that that may be a hard nut to crack, but the city will see what can be done.
“It’s very difficult unless its negotiated or certain local laws are passed. But we’re trying very hard to encourage our residents to apply for those positions and to be part of our community,” he said.
“We’ve talked about incentivizing that for every employee in the city. It’s a process. I’ve only been on the job for five months so we’re trying very hard to deal with things as they come up.”
Camille Hodnett, who has three children, noted that police were not the enemy.
“I speak for all of you — black, mixed-race, every single one of them who are fighting for justice,” she said, pointing to two police officers in attendance.
“I have these two men on my side wearing these badges and they’re still on my side. I’m not knocking them, we’re not saying it’s all the police,” Hodnett added, according to The Post-Journal.
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