Report from the Tacoma Ferguson Forum

Report from the Tacoma Ferguson Forum

An all-star team of local public officials and advocates joined with regular citizens on Monday to show solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson, Missouri.

On Aug. 9th, Michael Brown, a black teenager, was shot by Officer Wilson. Though disputed by claims that Wilson was attacked by Brown, protestors argue that Brown was holding his hands up peacefully.

On Nov. 24th, a Missouri court 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 across the country.

A diverse crowd of about 100 assembled at the County-City building, after which 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 president of the Northwest Leadership Foundation Patricia Talton 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 in the brainstorming. ASPLU Vice President Dan Stell championed the view that people should stay in the moment and understand their emotional responses.

Stell reflected on the process of group discussion, saying, “It made it more real to be a participant rather than talking about it like we do at school. [It made me feel] congruent with my thoughts and actions.”

Proposed reforms included commonly heard cries to have police officers were 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 Reverend 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?”

As for PLU, the Diversity Center, Women’s Center and Center for Community Engagement & Service hosted another forum in the Scandinavian Center on Thursday.

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