The South Orange-Maplewood Community Coalition on Race has asked the governing bodies of Maplewood and South Orange to pass resolutions condemning the actions of law enforcement in Ferguson, MO regarding the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American, by a white police officer last August.
The proposed resolution was drafted by Coalition Chair Fred Profeta, who is also a former mayor of Maplewood. Profeta sent the proposed resolution to both the Maplewood Township Committee and the South Orange Village Trustees for review.
Coalition Executive Director Nancy Gagnier presented the proposed resolution to the Maplewood Township Committee at the Township Committee’s Oct. 21 meeting. The Coalition plans to present the resolution to the South Orange Village Trustees at a South Orange Board of Trustees meeting on November 10.
Gagnier said that the Coalition felt that it was important for the leadership of Maplewood and South Orange to respond to the events in Ferguson. “It was striking to us that Ferguson is a racially diverse but not integrated community…. We were motivated to see comparisons because we are a community that knows first hand where situations are perilous unless there are race conscious strategies in place to counteract segregative forces.”
She listed the following integrative strategies as having been implemented in Maplewood and South Orange: fair lending practices, neighborhood associations, a fair housing ordinance, representative leadership in government and civic associations, activities that support an integrative culture and that allow people to build relationships across racial and cultural divides, honest conversations about race, and teaching and police steps that reflect the community.
Gagnier noted that the Coalition and the South Orange-Maplewood community were included in a recent USA Today article about diversity.
Finally, Gagnier said that she had talked with Patricia Bynes, a Ferguson Democratic Committeewoman, who said, “The things that they need to do [in Ferguson] are the things that we are doing here.”
Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said that although the Township Committee was not in a position to “pass anything” last night, he had shared the proposed resolution with his colleagues and would “see if we could craft something where we could come up with some agreement.” DeLuca said that the events in Ferguson had already caused some “reflection on how we communicate with communities of color.” DeLuca also said that Police Chief Robert Cimino had been “very open to this.”
“If there’s any segment of a community that feels shut out, isolated, not part of civic life, then I think it is incumbent on the government to create opportunities for that participation,” said DeLuca.
The proposed resolution reads as follows:
Be it resolved by the South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race that:
The events which occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, in August of 2014 have been deeply troubling to all people of good will in this country. The South Orange/Maplewood Community Coalition on Race finds these events to be particularly disturbing because they represent precisely the type of racial injustice that we find to be enormously offensive and which we have fought so hard to counter since the time of our inception. Because Maplewood and South Orange are communities which aspire to be places where the events in Ferguson would never occur, the Coalition requests that the South Orange Board of Trustees and the Maplewood Township Committee adopt resolutions which condemn:
1. The repugnant killing of an unarmed black male teenager, and
2. The militaristic over-reaction of the Ferguson police force to the public protest in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees.