Systemic Police-Community Violence in the USA
Impacts and Responses
Police-community violence and responses was the topic of a very powerful discussion at the Plenary Panel on Friday. The opening framework was laid out by David Ragland, a professor at the United Nations Mandated University for Peace as well as the Co-Director for The Truth Telling Project of Ferguson. He provided an excellent theoretical foundation for understanding the work that is happening on the ground with the Black Lives Movement and anti-police brutality and racism activism. He utilized his own understanding of critical race theory, and how that provides the background for examining society and culture in regards to the intersection of race, law and power.
Moving into that framework, Alex Landau, a metro Denver community advocate and Black Lives Matter advocate shared his personal story of police brutality when he was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation, and was then beaten almost to death by the police while hearing racial slurs directed towards him. His horrifying story has been turned into an animated short film called Traffic Stop, which can be seen on YouTube.
Asia Dorsey, owner of Five Points Fermentation Co., added her insight and worked with the group of participants to provide some much needed healing and calming after hearing the extremely traumatic experience of Alex Landau.
Carole O'Shea, the Victim Services Supervisor for the Aurora Police Department, talked about her role within the police department, providing information on the work that is being done from within the system. She brought up the fact that the trauma experienced by victims of the police department was compounded by the fact that they often were already experiencing historical systemic trauma. Part of the work that her department was doing with first responders was to provide them with an awareness of this trauma and training in how to respond to it. The hope is that first responders will then be better equipped to deal constructively and creatively with the situation.
The discussant, Erica Chenoweth, one of the professors from the University of Denver, then provided some hopeful statistics and information on how non-violent social change movements can be successful. Her extensive research on the subject was an uplifting end to an extremely difficult and painful subject.
~Rowan Mundhenk, MA '17
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