A Community-Wide Racial Justice Policy Dialogue

Blakely Dishman

Features Editor

 

Content Warning: This article contains brief mentions of police brutality and racialized violence.

This past Monday, Nov. 8, Amnesty International came together with the Wayne County Racial Justice Coalition and Wooster-Orville NAACP to put on an evening discussion about local law enforcement policy and advocacy. The event lasted two hours and was open to students, faculty and members of the Wooster community. One goal of the event was to connect students with both the existing and new racial and social justice organizations, those being the Wooster-Orville NAACP and the Wayne County Racial Justice Coalition, respectively. 

After explaining what the two organizations have accomplished since their inception in 2020, such as advocacy to the Wooster City Council through Let’s Chat sessions, the leaders detailed what projects they are currently working on. First, concerning media outreach, the NAACP and Coalition are seeking regional and international news coverage. Additionally, they are continuing to work on their “Letters to the Editor Campaign,” which is a form of advocacy where participants write letters to the editors of The Daily Record, Wooster Weekly News and The Wooster Voice discussing racism and police brutality. Another project that the NAACP and Coalition worked on was an anti-racist book donation drive, where they collected 100 books for Wayne County Public Libraries. In addition to these projects, they are also continuing their Anti-Racist Discussion Group. 

When they finished describing these projects and how students can contribute to them, the leaders educated the audience on political leaders who have the power to impact racial justice-based policies at the local, state and national level. Once explaining the governmental leaders who have the power to make change, the group was introduced to the “Wooster Safety for All” Policy Reform Proposals that will be presented to the Wooster Police Department. A community member explained that the Wayne County Police Department Policy was not publicly accessible until they filed a public access request. Upon reading the newly accessible policies, they developed proposals covering chokeholds, carotid holds, no-knock warrants and diversity in hiring and transparency. After explaining what the Policy Reform Proposals covered, the leaders of the event told the audience what they could do to impact local racial and social justice policy. 

They began this explanation with the acronym: P.A.D.O., which stands for Participate, Advocate, Donate and Organize. To those who are reading this article and are interested in making an impact, this part is for you! Participate! Students can join student or community organizations, attend the daily demonstrations in the Wooster Square from 12 to 1 p.m. or join the Wooster-Orville NAACP and the Wayne County Racial Justice Coalition. Advocate! Students can write letters to the editors, email local leaders in support of anti-racist initiatives or email/call elected representatives. Donate! You can donate your time, skills or money to a relevant organization. Organize! You can create a plan to change current policies, become a community organizer, and form a discussion group. 

After learning how they could get involved, the audience dispersed into breakout groups where they completed action items. One group wrote postcards to the Wooster City Council, Chief of Police and representatives. The second group learned about the new City Council members and how to contact them. There was also a tutorial on how to write letters to the editors of various news outlets. Another group planned a student demonstration day, while the final discussed campus-focused law enforcement policy and the Black Manifesto. 

The event was concluded after these breakout sessions were finished. Stay tuned for similar events that may occur in the future! Follow @amnestywooster for updates.