My name is Chris Fedalei and during this moment of disbelief, of anger, of chaos across the country, it is important that we come together as a community to acknowledge loss and work to address the issues that have led us here. That’s why I have all of these strong people with me, who represent our people on city and county council, in law enforcement, in the church, and in our community. These are problems that we must tackle everywhere and at once. We must share both our grief and our resolve.
First, we must confront the sadness brought to the nation by the most recent killings, not just of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, but also the terrible slaying of 5 officers in Dallas last night.
We cannot forget that the tragic situation in Dallas did not end the way it began - police were posing for pictures with protesters, doing their jobs while concerned citizens made themselves heard. And at the end of the evening, far too many sacrificed in the noblest way possible- protecting these very same people and freedoms that we all value so dearly.
Police and protesters were coming together to heal, building a mutual trust that has now been tragically shattered by a cruel and calculated attack. Police are members of the community they risk their lives to protect, and we thank them for their sacrifice.
Over the last several days, we’ve been blanketed with coverage of these killings, of both civilians and police. Everytime I turn on a TV or see the cellphone videos, the feeling hits me again as if for the first time. Not just the ones that show death, but the ones that show the impact on those left alive. The image of a mother fighting to keep a straight face in front of the camera, while her son weeps openly in the background, clinging to his family members for support, grief stricken at the loss of his dad. Or the raw emotion of a police chief as he discusses losing his officers.
I wouldn’t trust a person who wasn’t changed by that footage. And yet we continue to watch, transfixed, as variations on the same theme are replayed, day after day and month after month. There is a sadness now that all Americans share and that sadness grows deeper the more we learn of their stories and their families - these were men that could easily be our neighbors, brothers, fathers, or sons.
The problem didn’t start two years ago, or even ten. For most of you, that fact doesn’t exactly come as news. For the members of our black community, the pattern that has played out over the last several days is all too familiar. The disregard we seem to hold for the lives of black men, women, and children dates back to the founding of this country. Our collective indignation is long overdue. And it should never have required constant, consistent proof beamed directly to our smartphones for America to wake up.
The string of police-related tragedies have forced us, at last, to look in the mirror and realize that the nightmare is not only a vision but a reality that haunts us.
It's long past time that politicians admit an unsettling truth that has shaped so much of the American experience. The institutions we trust to keep us safe don’t just occasionally feature bias. Our criminal justice system is defined by systemic racism.
When I get pulled over, I’m worried about the points on my license, fingers crossed that maybe he’ll give me a warning, then send me on my way. I have never feared for my life. I’ve never been worried about being beaten or shot, or watched it happen to a friend. I’ve never had a console someone’s child who must now grow up without a parent.
I’ve always known a traffic stop as a traffic stop, but there are too many Americans where a traffic stop is another moment that they must steel themselves against potential abuse.
For too long black parents have had to give their children the talk. I have had black parents tell me they teach their children seven words when interacting with the police: “Yes sir, no sir, Thank you sir.” They do this not to enforce proper etiquette. They teach them this to keep them alive. All too often that is not enough, and so we cannot be satisfied with our efforts either.
As the killings grow more and more frequent, and the days of inaction turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months, and the months turn into years. To be concerned and passionate about this issues is not to be against law enforcement. We recognize that our police officers do difficult, often thankless work and we thank them for their sacrifice. To say Black Lives Matter in no way implies the lives of others don’t.
Our leaders in Congress have done nothing, so it is up to us to change that.
It will take action.
Dollars redeployed to change the way our police are equipped and trained.
Leaders who are dedicated to changing the laws in Congress and in our State House.
And deliberate refusal of all of us to accept the current circumstances as adequate, equal, or just.
Today is a day for grieving, and all of our hearts are with those in Baton Rouge, in the suburbs of St. Paul, and in Dallas.
But there is also a fierce urgency of now that we cannot ignore. These killings could happen in any community in America. South Carolina felt this pain personally with the killing of Walter Scott and the Emmanuel 9 last year. Systemic racism can only be dismantled and tackled through the people fighting every day for change and mutual trust between the police and the people they serve can only be built through sincerity and understanding.
I believe that we can unite behind these causes and, with the right leaders in our community, live in a safer future.
Thank you and I’ll take your questions.