SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) – About 30 Syracuse neighbors gathered Friday night at Tucker Missionary Baptist Church for a town hall on community and police relations nearly two weeks after an 8-year-old child years old was placed in the back of a police car for stealing a bag of crisps.
Town hall organizer and community activist Alfonso Davis used the meeting to push back against the narrative he says the city has created around the video.
Although invited, no one from the gendarmerie showed up at the town hall to answer for his actions. A handful of elected leaders showed up, including Syracuse Common Council President Helen Hudson.
“We need to have a conversation, we need to be transparent, and we need to be honest about the things that are happening in our community on both sides,” Hudson said.
Community members each had two minutes to share their thoughts or ask questions at the microphone. A Syracuse resident reacted to the viral video saying, “That 8 year old is me, all I saw on the video was me.”
The town hall also shed light on the history of policing and the mistrust between law enforcement and communities of color.
“The relationship between the City of Syracuse Police Department and the black and brown communities has never been truly respectful,” Davis said.
Other speakers used the time to call on each other to unite as a community.
Ideas on accountability, funding and access to programming were also discussed during the meeting. Common Council Speaker Hudson added that Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens was working to create a team of civilians to respond to calls involving children, like the 8-year-old in the viral video. This team would behave similarly to how Liberty Resources responds to mental health calls.
Town hall organizers hope to have similar meetings once a month and say Mayor Walsh and Chief Cecile plan to be at the next one. No word on an exact day or time yet.