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Organizer: Tuesday town hall meeting first of many

Residents gathered at Saint Peter Baptist Church Tuesday night at a town hall meeting that organizer Darell “Simba” Kennedy said was meant to “uplift the community and bring people together.”

“One of the reasons I did this is people wanted to say their concerns with what was going on in the community,” Kennedy said. “When we have a crisis like this in our city, we need to come up with a solution and hold someone accountable for their actions.”

Kennedy said this meeting and ones planned for the future are about a variety of topics affecting the community, but the most palpable reason was the unrest and dissension caused by the alleged beating last month of a black teen at the hands of a Troy Police officer during the teen’s arrest.

“My main topic was how to respond when stopped by police,” Kennedy said. “Unfortunately, this does occur whether you are right or wrong. We want everyone to return home safely.”

Kennedy also addressed violence within the African-American community.

“I want to end black violence that exists in our community,” Kennedy said. “Just like we all got together for the rally dealing with that community, we should all come together when there’s a crime in our community. We want to hold up both sides of our community and keep them accountable.”

Dianna Bascomb, president of the Pike County chapter of the NAACP, said she thinks the meeting is a good start to meet community needs.

“I hope the meeting Tuesday night is a first step toward more community meetings and community policing that has worked for other cities throughout the U.S.,” Bascomb said. “I thought it was good for the first one, and I think that to have more of those attended by elected officials would be good.”

Bascomb said having law enforcement officers and elected officials involved in the meetings would be important.

“I think if they could be structured with elected officials there to address some of concerns of the community and processes put in place … I think that would be something that would be very productive,” Bascomb said. “Community policing is critical because what it does is it allows the criminal justice apparatus in the community to be engaged.

“It lets us get to know police prior to an incident occurring so when something occurs, we know who they are, and we’ll talk to them. Now, we only perceive them as a threat and someone that’s out to get us. When we have that dialogue beforehand, we know you’re here to help us.”

Kennedy said the town hall also promoted issues such as voter registration, mentoring programs, scholarships, getting proper ID for children and other topics.

“A town hall meeting is something communities should have at least once a month,” Kennedy said. “It shouldn’t have to be police brutality to bring us together, but it did.”