Members demand change, policing alternatives
Members of the grassroots Beacon 4 Black Lives and its supporters called into the City Council meeting Monday (Aug. 3), demanding transparency from lawmakers and policy changes at the Police Department.
“The reformative actions that the city has taken have not been in response to the pain of the Black citizens in Beacon, but rather have been in sole response to the resignation [retirement] of Chief [Kevin] Junjulas” on July 7, said Justice McCray, the first caller to the videoconferenced meeting and an organizer of Beacon 4 Black Lives and recent Black Lives Matter marches in the city.
During his call, McCray hit the highlights from a list of demands the organization posted on social media earlier in the day (see below).
Beacon 4 Black Live Demands
■ Reject increases in the Police Department’s budget and invest in policing alternatives such as emergency responders who are trained in de-escalation for non-violent or non-criminal calls
■ Implement more police oversight policies
■ Invest in social and educational institutions, community services and community capital, such as housing, food, mental health services, child care and a community center — with an emphasis on minority-owned establishments and resources
■ Invest in municipal broadband
“I’m here to demand that the Black and brown voices of this community are heard, and that their needs are met,” said McCray, who challenged Mayor Lee Kyriacou to dispense with hiring a new chief altogether. (The Council on July 7 appointed a former officer as interim chief to serve no more than 90 days.)
“What are you afraid of if we don’t do it?” he asked. “What’s going to happen?”
During the meeting’s two opportunities for public comment, 17 other callers followed McCray, reiterating his points or offering support.
“It seems clear that the mayor, if not the entire council, has lost the trust of the city,” said Paloma Wake. “The only way to build trust is through transparency and clear communication. Your city has been trying to get you to act for months now.”
Numerous callers said that McCray should have been named to the committee charged with overseeing the hiring of a new chief. Instead, the 13-person committee, named two weeks ago, includes Stefon Seward, another of the organizers of Beacon 4 Black Lives.
McCray was “disqualified by the mayor” as a potential member because Kyriacou did not agree with comments McCray made during an earlier council meeting, alleged Ciarda Hall, another Beacon 4 Black Lives organizer.
“How can we trust the integrity of a committee if you’re only choosing people who agree with your shady politics based solely on reinforcing white supremacy and maintaining the status quo?” Hall charged.
Council Member Terry Nelson, who is head of the hiring oversight committee, said Wednesday that the city asked Seward to join because McCray’s previous comments “led me to believe that he didn’t actually believe in the search” for a chief.
While some callers on Monday championed massive cuts to the Beacon Police Department, others chastised the council for what they characterized as the slow pace of change.
Linda Codega advocated that the city “abolish the police and defund it entirely” while delegating power from the mayor and council to police oversight committees — “a secession of power, which is necessary when radical change is at hand.”
“They cannot wait any longer; they’ve had it,” added Barry Nelson. “Something needs to take place sooner rather than later to give the community some way to trust [that] these people understand.”
The council is scheduled next week to discuss the initiatives that it will address over the coming months, including the Beacon 4 Black Lives proposals.