Staunton City Council approves statement on racial justice

stauntonThe following statement was approved unanimously by Staunton City Council at the Thursday City Council meeting.

As a Council, we condemn in the strongest possible words the horrifying examples of racially motivated violence and injustice, often by those who are sworn to protect, that continue to take place in communities across our country.  The murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck while he lay helpless on the ground is the most recent atrocity against a black American that has left us appalled, angered and heartbroken.

Structural racism that has played out against generations of black individuals and families must be confronted and dismantled to achieve the equal protection, freedom, access and representation deserved by all individuals.  We appreciate the passionate dialogue that is happening right now on the streets and in the homes of Staunton and other communities, and support peaceful expressions of anger, pain and grieving as necessary and justifiable calls for action and pushes for continued change and improvement.

In his recent statement, Staunton Police Chief Jim Williams expressed his extreme emotion at the murder of George Floyd in saying that “This disturbing image is one that I personally will never forget.  I truly cannot imagine the pain and anguish that must be felt by Mr. Floyd’s family and friends.”     We commend those police officers who share Chief Williams’ view that the basic principles of law enforcement would never condone police officers committing such an atrocity, or any racially motivated injustice, and who reflect that in their everyday interactions.   We also appreciate Chief Williams’ acknowledgement that the Staunton Police Department is not perfect and support his determination to “continue to strive to be a police department our community can trust to carry out our vital mission.”

As a Council we express our absolute expectation that law enforcement officers and indeed all city employees will be held immediately accountable for any instances of misconduct that reflect racially motivated bias.

City Council’s adopted 2030 vision expresses our collective hope that Staunton is a vibrant, exciting and welcoming community that is built on a diverse population. We cannot be the city we aspire to be when our friends, neighbors, coworkers and our own families are victims of unequal treatment due to their race.  Our city must examine in an honest way how goals in our vision like inclusivity and diversity can be achieved in the face of discriminatory actions that have a sad and enduring history across our country and, indeed, closer to home.

As a Council we understand that this will require courage, compassion, constant attention and vigilance, and we pledge to do this hard work in dialogue with all persons who seek resolutions through open communications, shared accountability and peaceful actions.  While we do not have all the answers right at this moment, we will immediately consider specific initiatives that will help the city ensure fair and equitable treatment of all Staunton residents and visitors, including in interactions with law enforcement.

We stand in solidarity with those who insist on immediate meaningful action to address the longstanding and deeply entrenched institutional racism in our country and dedicate ourselves to the critical work of supporting equity, diversity and inclusion in the City of Staunton.


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