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Panelists address police brutality and Ku Klux Klan flyers in Syracuse during NAACP town hall meeting

Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

Panelists from the Syracuse University community address issues such as police brutality and Ku Klux Klan flyers being distributed in Syracuse during a town hall meeting for SU's chapter of the NAACP.

Panelists answered questions about police brutality, Ku Klux Klan flyers being distributed in the city of Syracuse over the summer and how Syracuse University students can get active in the city at the SU chapter of the NAACP’s town hall meeting Thursday night.

The panelists — Jordan West, a doctoral student in the School of Education; Cleveland McCurty Jr., a detective for Department of Public Safety; and Syracuse resident Sequoia Kemp — convened at the auditorium inside the Heroy Geology Building.

The first question raised in the meeting was about the panelists’ reactions to the KKK flyers in Syracuse. While all members were disappointed and upset by the presence of the organization, some appeared to be more shocked than others.

“I’m a Syracuse native. We were very surprised or even terrified. There’s this idea that the KKK is a thing of the past or just in the south,” Kemp said.

West said she was less caught off guard because Pennsylvania State University, where she was studying before SU, has one of the largest chapters of the KKK — she learned that the organization is present in northern states, too.

West also expressed disappointment at the university’s lack of response to the incident.

The conversation shifted to the topic of police, and the moderator James Weldon Hadnot asked the panel about the best way to communicate with police going forward.

McCurty, the DPS detective, said community dialogue, like this town hall meeting, was important and he thinks that body cameras are “a great equalizer for both sides.” He also mentioned the importance of explaining things to people, for example, explaining his reason for asking someone to remove their hands from their pockets.

“People I work with, white and black, take this job because they want to serve the community,” McCurty said.

A member from the audience asked how students are able to hold DPS accountable, and McCurty said in response that there is a complaint process online in place for students. West, the doctoral student, added students can report incidents to Stop Bias and should in general use apps such as LiveSafe.

“You’ve just got to continue exposing what happens,” West said, “Some of this is about the need for proof and we’re seeing that with Black Lives Matter.”

Another member from the audience expressed his frustration in slow progress in resolving police brutality — although it has been years since the Ferguson protests — and asked what needs to take place.

Kemp said solving this issue means combating a monster of a system, and since it’s personal, it hits close to home — her cousin’s fiancé was killed this summer. West urged students to realize how powerful they are.

The panelists also discussed the importance of getting involved in the city and staying up to date with Syracuse’s local politics. Audience members talked about how the stigmas against certain neighborhoods in the city keep students at SU from getting more involved.

“Change is a process. It takes time. We might not see all of it in our lifetime. We have to keep the ball rolling and can’t get discouraged,” said Cobia Powell, the moderator who stepped up after Hadnot had to leave. “If the past generation stopped, where would we be today?”

At the end of the meeting, Diamond Miles, a junior economics major and the president of the NAACP chapter at SU, announced there would be an “Am I Next?” march against police brutality on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. starting at Hendricks Chapel.


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