'Ideologies came to a head': How to move forward after Raleigh 'Crucial Conversation' ends in chaos

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Thursday, March 30, 2023
'Ideologies came to a head': Raleigh activists differ on path forward
Monday's Raleigh "Community Crucial Conversation" on gun violence and policing was thrown off course as former allies in the city's social justice movement now find themselves at odds.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Monday's Community Crucial Conversation was thrown off course as former allies in the city's social justice movement now find themselves at odds.

Their disagreements forced the town hall on gun violence and the community's relationship with Raleigh police to come to a chaotic end. The following day, ABC11's Joel Brown, who moderated the forum, spoke to stakeholders to unpack what went wrong and how to move forward.

Forty minutes into what was supposed to be a two-hour conversation on gun violence and policing, it was clear the city wasn't emotionally ready to have it.

"Either y'all leave or we gonna shut it down!" Diana Powell, the event's chief organizer told the unruly part of the crowd which was filled with faces she knew well.

It was an ugly ending putting in full focus the damaged relationship between a Black community distrustful of its police force and the divide among Raleigh advocates and activists about how to solve it.

"I think we're fighting the same fight. We're just traveling down two different paths," said Powell who serves as executive director of Justice Served NC.

Kerwin Pittman, a member of Emancipate NC, who was part of the group that disrupted the forum said he believes the chaotic ending represents a divide that's been growing for some time.

"The ideologies came to a head. Emotions came to a head. It was a lot," Pittman said.

There was a time when Powell and Pittman were on the same side of these issues. You would see them, in Interviews and news conferences side-by-side. But no longer.

On Monday, Pittman and like-minded social justice activists decried the conversation as untruthful. They were critical of Powell for partnering so closely with the powerful panelists who agreed to speak.

"The difference is our approach that accountability has to come first before there can be any true change," Pittman said. "But Diana believes just give them an opportunity time after time after time and hopefully one day they get it right."

Community conversation in Raleigh turns into yelling match

Tempers flare at a Raleigh Community Conversation on gun violence and prevention efforts. Josh Chapin reports.

Powell, who meets regularly with Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson for smaller-scale community conversations dismisses the idea that she's not holding city leaders accountable.

"I build a relationship. And if we're not at the table they get to make the decisions without us," Powell said. "That myth that now we are in the mayor's pocket, we are in the chief's pocket - let me go on record and say that is not true."

The death of Darryl Williams is still raw for many. Williams died after being tased three times in a January encounter with RPD officers conducting proactive patrols in a high-crime area off Rock Quarry Road.

"Proactive policing is, for one, to build trust with community because officers are visible in the area," Chief Patterson said at the forum. Many in the audience responded with jeers.

"This is targeting marginalized communities," Pittman contended. "You could say that they are doing proactive patrolling on Glenwood (South), but nobody's dying on Glenwood."

"I'm not dismissing what they want to say about proactive policing. We were in agreement with that. It's the way of presenting it," Powell said in response.

Geraldine Alshamy has nearly 50 years of community advocacy. On Monday night, she left disgusted.

"I just walked out," Alshamy said, putting much of the blame for the chaotic ending on years of unaddressed trauma that boiled over.

"Until we as a community begin to focus in on our trauma and the issues that we have, we can't lead," Alshamy said. "Because these children are learning from us."

None of the stakeholders who spoke to ABC11 said they believe a crucial conversation like Mondays can't happen again. But they agreed that changes have to be made: More viewpoints invited to take part; perhaps no cameras allowed; and an agreement, upfront, from everyone, the conversation will be a respectful, safe space for dialogue.