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After George Floyd killing, Whittier promises call to action

As a nation and as a city we are in challenging times. First the pandemic and now the horrific killing of George Floyd weigh heavy on all of us.

What we have seen on that video from Minneapolis is sickening and so wrong. And justice will prevail. This one brutal act has raised so many questions for a national focus, a local focus…police tactics, racial inequality, protests, theft/rioting…

As Mayor I look at all that has happened and ask, what does this mean for Whittier? What can we learn from it?

I appreciate the Whittier protests and the peaceful nature of those protests. I have come to know a number of the leaders and they have much to say and we have much to listen to. And all of us have much to think about and reflect upon in terms of our own individual perspective. At the protest I spoke about respect for each other, and how this impacts Whittier and each community member.

Tuesday night at the City Council meeting, we adjourned in the memory of George Floyd. It is important for all of us to consider what was said in adjournment and then to spend some time in self-reflection.

Below are my words from Tuesday’s meeting:

whittier mayor talks to protestor 2

Mayor Joe Vinatieri speaks to demonstrators outside City Hall last Saturday. Photo by David Gonzalez Jr.

 

We will adjourn tonight’s meeting in memory of George Floyd. Normally, we would only adjourn in memory of a member of the Whittier community. We would read a biography of the person in whose memory we are adjourning and we would recall the impact the individual had on the Whittier community.

Mr. Floyd was not a Whittier resident. Yet his death has reverberated in our hearts and in our minds. His death has galvanized our community and the nation as a whole. We are horrified, and incredibly saddened at Mr. Floyd’s death, which has come to symbolize so much more than just one individual’s interaction with law enforcement. I want to extend my sincerest condolences – my thoughts and prayers along with my Council Colleagues’ and those of the staff here in Whittier – to Mr. Floyd’s family and friends.

We will also take up the call to action that has been made in the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death. It is a call to reflect and to question. This reflection needs to occur in our own hearts and minds as individuals, when we consider what our values are and how we are living those values in our everyday lives. We need to question our personal status quo and challenge ourselves to be better, do better, and change things for the better.

This is also a time for reflection within our organization and our Whittier community. We see in Whittier’s demonstrations and marches the pain and concern that is held by our Whittier family members over the way criminal justice policies in general have impacted low income communities and communities of color.

In the last week, these demonstrations have resulted in my own conversations with our City Manager and our Police Chief on our police policies and the calls that have come from our community to examine and update those policies. I have met with organizers and had conversations about what happens in our interactions between the police and community members.

Tonight we started the process as a City Council to engage in conversation about our city’s policies and tactics, especially as they pertain to our police department. As a start to this process, I invite you to view our Police Department’s policy manual on our city website at WhittierPD.org under the Information Center tab. It is called the WPD Policy Manual.

Tonight, we take this opportunity to formally recognize and condemn both the act of violence committed against Mr. Floyd and its representation of the ongoing distrust sown between the government as an institution and its community members. We are committed to this ongoing conversation about police policies and tactics, to building and sustaining trust in our community, and to upholding my own personal belief that we are all created in God’s image, called to love one another as we love ourselves, as well as the inherent dignity of life.

We mourn for George Floyd, we adjourn in his honor and we adjourn with a commitment to continuing our conversations about policies in the hopes of ensuring the tragedy that befell Mr. Floyd is not repeated ever again.

Please join me in a moment of silence and self reflection.

We are honored to be able to adjourn our meeting in his honor tonight. Thank you.

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