As peaceful protests and violent opposition continue around the country surrounding the death of George Floyd, elected officials and business leaders in Pasadena said reforms are needed in policing and other industries to guarantee civil rights and economic equality for African Americans.
“The reform has to go beyond policing in order for there to be equality in this country,” said African-American businessman Ishmael Trone. “We need banking reform. We need mortgage reform. We need business loan reform. We need a lot of reform to take place so that there’s equality across the board for everyone.”
Floyd, who was African American, was killed on May 25 in Powderhorn, Minnesota, during an encounter with police. An officer placed a knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes during the arrest, despite pleas by the 46-year old father of two that he could not breathe.
During the encounter, a desperate and dying Floyd begged for his life.
Two autopsies have said Floyd’s death was a homicide.
His death has reignited long-held concerns about racism and acts of violence and use of force by white police officers against African Americans.
“There’s a buildup of frustration with the lack of action,” said Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton. “That’s why people are organizing and they’re protesting. Time after time African-American men, African-American women, African Americans in general are being mistreated in this country and they’re fed up.”
Hampton said he feels the silver lining will be significant policy changes within the city and the state.
At Monday’s council meeting Hampton called for civilian oversight of the police department. An emergency Public Safety Committee is scheduled for Thursday.
“We’ve already had our cases here in Pasadena,” Hampton said. “We can’t pretend that this is just happening in Minneapolis. This is happening all over the place. People are protesting, because they feel as if they’re not being heard.”
Then 21-year old Christopher Ballew had a violent encounter with police on Nov. 19, 2017 in the parking lot of a gas station on the corner of Woodbury Road and Fair Oaks Avenue just before 8 p.m.
Video recorded by a passerby standing at a bus stop on Fair Oaks showed Ballew being hit in the head with fists and across his legs and ankles with an extended metal police baton. The footage was posted weeks later on Facebook, prompting outraged residents to demand the firing of the two officers involved. The officers have not been fired and the case is wending its way through court.
In 2012, officers fatally shot Kendrec McDade, an unarmed black teenager, after a brief pursuit. Officers in that case were responding to a false claim McDade and another teen had stolen a briefcase at gunpoint.
Then City Manager Michael Beck initially refused to release the results of an independent probe of the shooting. The city eventually changed its tune and opposed the police union, which attempted to bar the release of the report, in court.
“The question is, are we giving a voice to the voiceless? And the answer is no,” said Councilman John Kennedy. “And so the voiceless wants to be heard and this is their language on how to be heard. So what we know is that black men, particularly in America, but all black people in America continued to be oppressed by an unjust system and the system is not just one system. There are multiple systems. There is implicit bias. There is now hopefully going to be a national reckoning that we must have more than just a conversation about race.”
The NAACP plans to rally peacefully at 5 p.m. on Tuesday June 2 at First AME Church at 1700 N. Raymond Ave. in Pasadena.
The rally will be the fourth event in Pasadena since protests began a week ago.
“The death of Brother Floyd is a continuation of murders of African American men,” said NAACP President Allen Edson. “Now is the time to speak up about it.”
Mayor Terry Tornek praised local protesters and activists for remaining lawful.
“There’s a great national reaction to what we saw in Minneapolis, but it goes way beyond that,” said Mayor Terry Tornek. “As people have pointed out, this is just the latest chapter in long running set of experiences. That’s why people react so vigorously.”
On Sunday more than a reported 1,000 people attended a rally at Pasadena City Hall. Hours earlier protesters marched from La Pintoresca Park to Colorado Boulevard where they blocked traffic on Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue. One motorist was arrested after he barreled through the intersection, narrowly missing protesters.
“The death of George Floyd and the destructive events occurring around the world are extremely tragic,” said Pasadena Police Lt. William Grisafe. “We have been very fortunate in Pasadena that those who have wanted to publicly demonstrate, have been allowed to do so and have done it in a peaceful manner. We ask that the Pasadena community continue to work with the Police Department and the City leadership to make any necessary change to prevent incidents like what happened in Minnesota, to occur in our city.”