SAN FRANCISCO—Every day Tim Rogers, the Mayor of New Paltz, New York, gets asked “What’s next, what are you gonna do?”
Over a month ago, Rogers watched the video of George Floyd’s killing and found it insufferable to watch. He took time to think about it, and started addressing the issues it raises for all neighborhoods in America. New Paltz is a small, iconic, very blue town about an hour and half north of the city. The previous chief of police retired a short time ago and the new one made a speech about how he plans on making the police force better alongside the mayor. Rogers said the community was very pleased with the speech and what his plans for the future are.
“Police officers are being held accountable for their actions here and they are going through more training about how they respond to certain situations with different people of color and/or race,” he states.
It hasn’t all been easy and it’s not all perfect in New Paltz. “I feel that the rioting and looting are heartbreaking and unacceptable but also understandable. There have been many protests in New Paltz, all of which were supported by the community including myself and others. I have been to a protest, not just because I am mayor, but because I feel the need to stand up for what is right—and what happened to George Floyd was not fair or right.”
Many white people have seen acts of racism, be it from friends as a “joke” or from adults or a random person seen around town. Rogers feels that Floyd’s murder sheds light on the dangerous core of racism: dehumanization.
I agree. This is the brutal and hard, cold truth. There are people in this world that don’t think like the demonstrators, who don’t think like people who have been spending hours, days, weeks, months and maybe even years trying to make the world better for all. There are people who still treat others badly because of the color of their skin. We must find a way without violence to treat everyone fairly.
Rogers went to other protests with other high elected officials. There is going to be a moment in many of their careers that they will get a phone call from someone reporting that a police officer killed someone in their community who is Black or latinx, and that the community is enraged about it.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has been more focused on the protesters removal of statues and the moments of looting after the demonstrations than on police reform and, according to The New York Times, has threatened to deploy the U.S. military if the mayors do not “establish an overwhelming presence until the violence is over.” Trump’s actions caused many uproars in communities across the United States.
Democratic mayors are increasingly in the spotlight trying to understand as quickly as they can what to do about police brutality and the protests and complaints.
“It’s a challenge,” Michael Tubbs, the Mayor of Stockton, California told The New York Times. Tubbs is the first Black mayor of Stockton and, at the age of 29, is also the youngest. Julián Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, Texas who made police misconduct a centerpiece in one of his many presidential campaigns last year, said “the officials should be doing more on police reform.”
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia recently announced that two officers were fired and three others were demoted after a video was uncovered by local news media showing them pulling a woman from her car and using a stun gun on another man.
Bottoms isn’t the only one taking action in the face of lethal racial violence. Mayor Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky fired the city’s chief of police recently after learning that police officers did not record body camera footage during the fatal shooting of a Black business owner, David McAtee, that took place that day.
Liberal mayors have joined activists in the recent weeks in their own ways toward building a fairer society. Let’s join them in working toward making the world a better, more fair and safer place for our kids, grandchildren and more—for everyone.