Columbus black leaders discuss police-related shootings in America
A group of community leaders met at Davis Broadcasting headquarters on Friday for a community conversation about violence plaguing the nation.
The broadcasting company, which owns six urban contemporary radio stations in Columbus, stopped its regular programing from 5 to 6 p.m. for the call-in show, which included a panel discussion with law enforcement officials and other segments of the community. Organizers said the conversation will continue July 15 with a forum at the Liberty Theatre.
The “Stop the Music, Stop the Violence” discussion was moderated by Michael Soul, the station’s program director, and Janee Renee, an on-air personality at one of the radio stations. Panelists included Muscogee County Marshal Greg Countryman; Tonza Thomas, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Brother Student Minister Stephen Muhammad; the Rev. Walter Taylor of the Life Church of Columbus; Maj. Freddie Blackmon of the Columbus Police Department; and Cecilia Howard, a Muscogee County prosecutor. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and the Rev. Johnny Flakes III called in for the discussion.
The program could be heard on WFXE Foxie 105, WOKS AM 1340, WKZJ K92.7, WIOL ESPN, WEAM Praise 100.7 and WOKS AM 1340.
Geniece Granville, the company’s business manager, said it was the first time the company had stopped playing music to discuss an issue. She said the decision was in response to recent police shootings in Baton Rouge, La., St. Paul, Minn., and Dallas, as well as recent shootings within the Columbus community.
“The purpose is to open up the phone lines to have a real conversation with the listeners and the citizens of Columbus, Georgia, to give them an outlet to express any of their feelings as to whether the things happening nationally are impacting them locally,” she said. “It’s a combination of the ongoing shootings and deaths that have occurred in Columbus with many of our younger people, and it involves the shooting deaths both in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and now in Dallas.”
Callers expressed outrage at the recent shootings, both of black men and white police officers. They said they were saddened and frustrated by the events, and asked law enforcement what could be done to avoid such situations in Columbus.
Blackmon said the Columbus Police Department is both state and nationally certified, and knows how to handle difficult situations.
“We don’t make things up as we go along,” he said. “There are certain standards that law enforcement are expected to follow and our organization is in line with those standards.”
Countryman said there’s a need for more trust between police and people in the community.
“We don’t want to let a few bad incidents define what good officers do out there on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “But those few incidents speak a loud volume.”
Granville said Davis Broadcasting will continue to keep listeners engaged in the conversation with posts on its website.
“We don’t expect to get it all done in an hour,” she said. “But we do want to open up the conversation about why this violence is occurring, how it makes you feel and what we can do as a community to try to curb and prevent it.”