Birmingham City Leaders Discuss Race, Community After Dallas Shootings

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The American flag that hangs outside Birmingham City Hall was already flying at half-mast to honor the 49 victims in the Orlando nightclub shooting that happened almost a month ago. City officials say the flag will probably stay that way.

The flag at City Hall was already flying at half-mast honoring the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting that happened almost a month ago.

Esther Ciammachilli,WBHM
The flag at City Hall was already flying at half-mast honoring the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting that happened almost a month ago.

Birmingham Mayor William Bell and Police Chief A.C. Roper met today to address three separate shootings this past week involving black men and law enforcement.

Police killed a black man in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday night and another black man was shot and killed by police near St. Paul, Minnesota, on Wednesday. This sparked a peaceful protest in Dallas Thursday night that ended in the deaths of five police officers. Dallas Police Chief David Brown says the suspect, a black man, told authorities he was upset about the police shootings and wanted to kill white people, namely white police officers.

Mayor William Bell says incidents like these involving African-Americans and the police can potentially lead to stigmatizing generalizations about both groups.

“And part of the community relationship is to get people to understand that there’s a bigger picture out there,” Bell says. “That we should not paint with a broad brush all police officers. [And] Police officers and the general public should not paint all African-Americans with that same brush.”

Bell says that, as black men, he and Chief Roper understand the challenges facing African-Americans.

Roper commented on how, he says, the Birmingham Police Department was once on the wrong side of history. Racially charged incidents like the ones this week are why the department strives to strengthen its relationship with the communities it serves, he says.

“We cannot be successful without community support. As chief, I fully understand that. Our officers understand that,” says Roper. “And so, we have to build that bridge between the community and the police department.”

The group Black Lives Matter will hold a solidarity protest tonight at Kelly Ingram Park. Roper says the police will be present at the event despite the incidents in Dallas. But police can’t be everywhere and citizens are also responsible for public safety, Roper adds. He says if someone sees suspicious behavior they should say something.

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