One year after the BLM protests, what has changed in Lexington?
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDKY) – It has been a year since protests erupted in downtown Lexington over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Screaming through bull horns and holding signs, protesters called for greater police accountability. Now that the noise is long gone, what has changed in the city?
“I’m not going to sit here and lie and say it’s all perfect, but I see intentional efforts to try to make things fairer,” said Devine Carama, hip-hop artist and community activist.
Last summer, Mayor Linda Gorton formed a Commission for Racial Justice and Equality. Members presented 54 recommendations on how to improve the community. Gorton says the city is in the process of implementing 20 of those recommendations.
“You know some of them are important,” Gorton explained. “They are tough. We need partnerships. “
In his recent $ 4.9 million budget proposal, Gorton set aside nearly $ 2 million for eviction assistance and affordable housing.
“I think the budgetary aspects are a start,” said board member James Brown. “But I think we can always do more.”
Brown was a real estate agent before joining Urban County Council. He says the lack of adorable homes has kept many black families from owning home.
“We have to do whatever we can to increase this opportunity if we are to make Lexington a place where everyone feels included,” said Brown.
Carama agrees. Last month, he joined Gorton’s administration as the new director of One Lexington, an initiative that works to reduce violence in neighborhoods.
“When you talk about redlining, food deserts, distance between social services, focusing on housing can solve some problems,” Carama said.
For Reverend Clark Williams of Shiloh Baptist Church, reducing disparities begins with creating more economic opportunity. He and other black religious leaders have held several press conferences calling on the city, Fayette County public schools and the University of Kentucky to award more contracts to minority-owned businesses.
“We have some very important conversations and we are slowly starting to see more and more minority companies starting to have opportunities,” said Willaims.
For some people, not much has changed in Lexington.
Twin sisters April Taylor and Sarah Williams have led many protests over the past year. They are disappointed with the pace of progress.
“More than anything, I want to get to a point where I know my kids can live their lives and not risk encountering the police,” Taylor said.
She, along with members of a group called LPD Liability, have twice marched to police headquarters in the past two months. They asked the police to give people access to Form 111, the paperwork needed to start the disciplinary process against an officer.
Others, like Reverend Williams, are asking the ministry to create a citizen review committee.
“If there is no Citizen Review Board, how can we maximize citizen participation in the police disciplinary process?” Williams said.
The mayor’s budget also included the purchase of body cameras. Every police officer is expected to have one by July 1.
“I think an opportunity for improvement with this policy is when we release a video,” Council member Brown said.
He explained that legal issues and other factors interfered with how quickly body camera images were released. LPD’s responsibility is for the video to be released three days after a use of force incident.
Lately, much attention has been focused on non-striking warrants. Brown, LPD Accountability and black religious leaders want them banned. However, Gorton and Police Chief Lawrence Weathers strongly oppose it.
Black religious leaders disappointed Lexington still failed to ban warrants without striking
Last month, Weathers told council members: “The history of no-beating search warrants proves they are safe.”
However, Reverend Williams disagrees.
“Our serious concern is that when there is the notion of leeway, that leeway disproportionately ends up having a negative impact on black people,” Willaims said.
While Williams, Brown and Carama recognize that a year is not enough to see significant change, they expect major improvements in the years to come. “We can’t wait until someone is killed to care,” Carama said. “We have to worry about the violence.”
Council member Brown introduced a draft order banning banning warrants for council members last month. The full council will discuss the ordinance in a working session on June 8.
If the ordinance is passed, it will come into effect on July 1.
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