Controversy Ensues Over Local Elected Official’s Comments at BLM Protest

During the last few weeks, thousands of protesters, like these young people in Monrovia, have taken to the streets peacefully to address the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

Lawmakers introduce proposals for police reform

By Terry Miller

As growing vocal protests at Library Park continued last week, demonstrators were protesting in the 300 block of South Myrtle Avenue in Monrovia when a motorist started a conflict by brandishing a gun at some young people exercising their First Amendment rights. Additionally, some in the community took exception to impromptu City Council speeches at the park and, in particular, the words of Mayor Tom Adams struck a sour note with some members of the community.

According to Monrovia police written reports, the motorist brandished a gun and then sped away, heading north on Myrtle. Officers quickly responded and detained the motorist in the area. An investigation was conducted and the driver was promptly arrested. The case will be presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Mayor Adams’ June 3 speech, at Library Park seemed to imply that the Monrovia Police Department was suffering most from the terrible injustices related to George Floyd’s murder at the hands of four police officers in Minneapolis. “I’ve never been more proud to be a Monrovian than I am right now. I will tell you that the entire Monrovia City Council stands with you. Our entire city staff stands with you … But I want to focus for just a moment, if I can, on the police department because no one has been hurt more than our police department by what we’ve seen. Their entire profession is now stained by something that they didn’t do, that they don’t believe in, and they would stop in a minute if they were in Minneapolis. Our police department does an incredible job in Monrovia. But the most important part is the job each and every one of you do because if we can’t fix this now we never will. So what you’re all doing needs to continue. This can’t stop. But that’s my fear because I’ve seen this many times,” Adams said during his speech. Some residents and critics have accused Adams of being racist.

Student activists William and Selah Kelly who helped start the Black Lives Matter protests in Monrovia, spoke with KGEM’s Ralph Walker recently and said they felt that the mayor was not really aligned with the Black Lives Matter movement despite his speech at the “Let’s Talk” event June 3 in conjunction with one of the largest protests of the week at Library Park. The brother/sister activist team also touched on what they call “beneath the surface” racism at Monrovia High School and macroaggressions towards black students.

We contacted Mayor Adams who said he’s “not inclined to make more out of this than it is.” Councilwoman Becky Shevlin told Monrovia Weekly Thursday that she feels the mayor’s comments were taken out of context by people who are not necessarily aligned with Mr. Adams’ politics. Shevlin strongly believes that the city cares for all residents and its police force and respects the right to protest peacefully.

During the interview with Walker, the student activists praised Monrovia in general and the police officers who helped keep the protesters safe. However, the activists would like the mayor to be more proactive when it comes to these social issues. “The police officers have been respectful and helpful, especially when they took an agitator into custody at the park during one of the peaceful protests,” said William. His sister Selah encourages people to visit their Twitter page @BlackLivesMatterMonrovia in a concerted effort to mobilize young people to register to vote and get involved in their community and not just stop when the protests are over. The Kellys strongly believe, as does much of the U.S., that we are at a crossroads and change will happen if we vote and mobilize young people.

For their part, Monrovia’s Police Department has reaffirmed their commitment to community policing and issued a statement recently on Facebook which read, in part:

“We, at the Monrovia Police Department share our community’s revulsion and disgust after watching the horrible actions by former police officers in Minneapolis that led to the death of George Floyd. The behavior of those officers does not remotely characterize the values and responsibility we have sworn to uphold. We reject their callous actions. We mourn for George Floyd. We mourn for those who have suffered as did George Floyd. We adamantly support you and your peaceful free speech demonstrations and commit ourselves to your protection.”

Currently, in Minneapolis there is a determined effort to disband the department or defund entirely. The ongoing debate is primarily about the word “defund.” 

According to The Appeal, on Sunday, June 7, a veto-proof majority of Minneapolis City Council members committed to disbanding the city’s embattled police department.

“The City Council’s decision follows those of several other high-profile partners, including Minneapolis Public Schools, and the University of Minnesota, and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation, to sever longstanding ties with the MPD.” 

Democrats in Congress have proposed legislation to reform American police, following the weeks of protests against police brutality and racism. The bill would make it easier to prosecute police for misconduct, ban chokeholds, and addresses racism.

However, it remains unclear whether the Republican-controlled Senate will support the proposed Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, testified to the House of Representatives on Wednesday during a hearing on police reform.

During an eloquent eulogy at a memorial honoring the life of George Floyd, Rev. Al Sharpton gave a profound discourse on the oppression African American’s face on a daily basis and that Floyd’s death was the catalyst that helped people say “enough is enough.”

“George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck. We were smarter than the underfunded schools you put us in, but you had your knee on our neck. We could run corporations and not hustle in the street, but you had your knee on our neck. We had creative skills, we could do whatever anybody else could do, but we couldn’t get your knee off our neck. What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services, and in every area of American life, it’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say get your knee off our necks.”

June 11, 2020

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Terry Miller

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