Friday, August 5, 2016

"Columbia has responded well and can be an example for other communities"

Jabari Smith (left) expressed his concerns at Thursday's town hall meeting.

Mount Zion AME Church, 222 South Fifth Street in Columbia, was filled on Thursday evening, but not for a church service. About 100 people showed up to participate in a "Town Hall" meeting aimed at finding solutions to incidents of violence between law enforcement and civilians.

Attendees were divided into eight groups and instructed to discuss their feelings and solutions. Afterwards, a spokesperson from each group went forward to read a summary of the discussion.

One group of eight people was led by Sandra Thompson, president of the York Branch NAACP. Thompson, an attorney, is also First Vice President Pennsylvania NAACP. This was a diverse group in race, gender and occupation, with a probation officer, chaplain, social worker, nurse, attorney, and a student among them.

Teenage student Zahara Flowers attended with her father, Jabari Smith. They live in Lancaster. Smith said that he was beaten by police when he was 14 years old. He was hospitalized - in part due to facial injuries from being dragged back and forth on the ground. No charges were filed against the police or him.

Smith expressed concern for his two sons, even though they stand 6'5" and 6'3". Their sister Zahara echoed his concern, saying she worries about them when they go out at night.

Many of the same worries and frustrations were discussed in the other groups.

Three members of borough council, Pam Williams, Fran Fitzgerald and John Novak, were also present and participated in the group discussions. Mayor Leo Lutz, it was announced, is currently on vacation.

Damian Colon, a youth leader of "My Life Matters," mentors young people ages 10-17. One man praised Damian's work, saying, "We need a lot more Damians in our neighborhoods."

Feelings expressed:

*One person said that law enforcement is being infiltrated by white supremacists, adding that the Thirteenth Amendment allows slavery. While it actually abolished slavery, the clause afterward reads EXCEPT as punishment for a crime.

*A black man expressed his frustration, saying he feels as if the system is corrupt, in that it hands over people to be incarcerated for minor crimes, adding, "There are people making money off of doing this."

*Another wants his four grandsons to feel comfortable approaching officers, but said that he himself, "Isn't there yet."

*Respect for elders has been lost.

*Some kids are raising their parents and never get to experience childhood, which leads to rage.

*Some felt fear for their children, saying they are walking, living targets.

Suggested Solutions:

*The idea of officers walking the neighborhoods and interacting with young people was brought up more than once.

*De-escalation and diversity training for police.

*Monitor social media, because it plays a large part in what's going on.

*Ride-alongs with officers.

The AME Church will post the complete list of solutions discussed at the meeting on its website. There will be another discussion in a few weeks, but a specific date was not given.

In closing, it was said that Columbia has responded well and can be an example for other communities.


  1. gee, it would have been nice if this was advertised ahead of time. no one i knew had a clue about it. it could have been even bigger!!!!! but glad it happened.

  2. Another meeting is being planned and will take place in the next few weeks.
    I finally found info on the August 4 Town Hall (as it was referred to) on the Church's Facebook page or website.

    1. If it is a Town Hall meeting, perhaps they will post the next one on the borough website.

    Good Lort! Hellur!!!!

    1. This meeting was very productive. Everyone remained respectful of each other. The church members were very welcoming and had control if the meeting.

    2. Thanks to those members of council that did show up, you did the right thing both for the position you hold and on general principles.

    3. R the people who r making comments about councillors not being at the meeting, where u there???? People might have had prior commitments that could not be broken

  4. this is awesome! but before you bash councilors, they may have only been informed the day of. let's pray that the next meeting is more advertised and that the whole council, mayor, chief and boro mgr attend and participate. kudos to all involved in the first meeting. we, the close knit community we've always been, can put Columbia on the map...for all the right reasons. Let's do this Columbians!

  5. You want to know where all. The council members were.but why. only one council.member could.take.time to show at.the.borough Hall last Sat morning that was. important to

  6. again, most likely, lack of communication.the boro is extremely quilty of this lack of communication.

  7. Excuses excuses

  8. And plans can be changed! What was more important?
    Oh the beer on Saturday.
    Time for major change.

  9. Bashing council for participating in the Beer Fest, a town event, makes no sense. They are town citizens and have a right to participate. They pay taxes and are entitled to enjoy their town. With as many meetings as Council members attend, we cannot expect them to adjust their schedule everytime another meeting comes up. Sometimes they will try and it can't be done.

  10. Pick and Choose