NN and Hampton rally in honor of Michael Brown
Jordan Crawford | 8/25/2014, 2:51 p.m.
Last week Newport News and Hampton residents assembled at two separate events hosted in response to the recent shooting of a teen in Ferguson, Mo., at the hands of a police officer. Community members and local officials said they hoped a similar situation wouldn’t take place locally.
The Aug. 9 shooting death of unarmed Black 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, by police officer Darren Wilson, who is white, sparked political and social unrest across the nation about race relations and police militarization.
The first event which took place outside of the Wynnwood Hotel on Jefferson Avenue in Newport News received a gathering of about 40 people including members of The Holy Ghost Fire Outreach Ministry, Abu Unity Foundation, Restoration & Faith Ministry and Nation of Islam. After a prayer in the Wynnwood parking lot, the group marched to Newport News Police Department headquarters with hands raised to the sky, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
Congressman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Newport News), Newport News Councilwoman Sharon Scott, Newport News police officers, and Newport News Police Chief Richard Myers addressed the marchers when they arrived at headquarters.
“There’s been a historic disconnection between the public and the police, especially among African-Americans,” said Myers. “Even if you were tenfold in number, you wouldn’t walk to our house here and be greeted by officers wearing helmets and sticks, because you’re simply marching and talking and expressing your views, what Americans get to do, right? Your quality of life depends on your trust of the police.”
Myers was recently asked to advise Missouri state police and led the Sanford, Fla., Police Department for nearly a year following the death of Trayvon Martin. Martin, a 17-year-old, was shot by a community watch volunteer, who was later tried and acquitted in his slaying.
Following the opening prayer, Congressman Scott said he doesn’t see Newport News having the same issues as Ferguson because of stronger working relationships among local authorities and the community.
“There’s no confidence in the police in Ferguson,” said Scott. “We must have the police with us, not against us. The tensions are more likely to flare when that trust isn’t there… we must also focus on prevention and early intervention, don’t wait until it’s too late when kids mess up to then change and try do better.”
Councilwoman Scott expressed similar concern, saying that elected officials need to show the public their support as they are part of the solution. She said that if she were in Ferguson she’d be at the rallies and other demonstrations.
“The problem is the police force,” said Scott. “The people already feel threatened. If you come out with weapons and tear gas how else should you expect the citizens to respond?”
The march drew local residents including Tonya Williams of Newport News, who feels there needs to be more interaction with youth instead of detention and restraining. She believes law enforcement is observing without respect and need to communicate on a level of non-force as they are often too aggressive.