By Angie Tinker, Matrix Co-Editor
Local public officials and advocates joined with citizens on Monday to show solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Mo.
On Aug. 9, Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot by Officer Darren Wilson. Though disputed by claims that Wilson was attacked by Brown, protestors argue Brown was holding his hands up peacefully.
On Nov. 24, a Missouri grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to hold a trial against Wilson.
Both events have sparked protests about race and police brutality in Ferguson and nationwide.
In Tacoma, a diverse crowd of about 100 assembled at the County-City building.
The protesters peacefully marched to Shiloh Baptist Church, escorted by police officers on bike. Protestors chanted the rally slogan, “No Justice No Peace,” and held signs memorializing Brown.
A group of Pacific Lutheran University students joined in the discussion.
At the church, a series of speakers discussed the importance of responding and acting proactively. Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland, Chief of Police Donald Ramsdell and Patricia Talton, president of the Northwest Leadership Foundation all spoke.
Strickland called for meaningful discussion, saying, “Take the time, be patient, and reach out to those from different perspectives. And if they disagree with you, ask them one simple question: Why do you believe that?”
Ramsdell signaled police willingness to help, saying, “We are here to listen, we are here to support.”
Talton encouraged citizens to remain active, saying “We are here to generate and use power. We all have it right where we are. Don’t think it’s just the mayor, just the chief of police.”
After the speeches, citizens were split into groups to help answer the question, “What now?”
PLU students helped brainstorm. Senior Dan Stell, Associated Students of Pacific Lutheran University Vice President, championed the view that people should stay in the moment and understand their emotional responses.
Stell reflected on the process of group discussion.
“It made it more real to be a participant rather than talking about it like we do at school,” Stell said. “[It made me feel] congruent with my thoughts and actions.”
Proposed reforms included commonly heard cries to have police officers wear body cameras.
There were more original ideas, however, such as forming a citizen advisory committee, mandating periodic cultural sensitivity training for police and having an independent prosecutor for cases involving police abuse of powers.
This was just a beginning in the process of understanding for both Tacoma and PLU.
The Rev. Eric Johnson urged people to keep agitating for change.
“Now that we have gathered and walked a mile, now what? Will we take the next step, be the voices and go the next mile?” Johnson said.
At PLU, the Diversity Center, Women’s Center and Center for Community Engagement & Service hosted another forum in the Scandinavian Center yesterday, De. 6. ◼︎