Friday night in Cincinnati, police arrested six people at a rally held to honor Sam DuBose, a black man killed by an ex-University of Cincinnati Police Officer last month. The incident was the latest involving a black person dying it the hands of law enforcement captured on video and broadcast throughout the country.
While there have been no such incidents in Tampa, it would be a mistake to believe that there aren’t significant tensions between members of the black community and the Tampa Police Department.
“Injustice and inequality in Tampa’s African-American community in the Buckhorn era,” was the title of a four-hour discussion that took place in front of approximately 100 people at the HOPE center in East Tampa on Saturday.
The catalyst for the tension in 2015 stems from a Tampa Bay Times report in April that stated that Tampa have been disproportionately citing black bicyclists in the city for infractions.
But for the family of Arthur Young Jr., it’s much more personal.
Young Jr. was the 63-year-old community activist who suffered a diabetic seizure and died in Tampa police custody in Seminole Heights in April of 2014. The Young family has filed a lawsuit against the city, claiming they violated their patriarch’s constitutional rights when they detained him, “ignoring his obvious physical and mental distress.”
The Young family organized Saturday’s meeting, and it was moderated by Dr. Kurt Young, one of Arthur Green Jr.’s sons. He said that there is sentiment in the black community that Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s insensitive comments are a problem, citing his comments earlier this year after 14-year-old Edward Harris was fatally shot in Woodland Terrace Park by an unknown shooter in a passing vehicle, comments that led to a petition on change.org calling on Buckhorn to apologize.
Young says Buckhorn’s statements he made to female Hillsborough County School board members in the wake of the MaryEllen Elia (he called them “mean girls”) was another incentive remark, but it’s the reaction to the death of his father that haunts him most of all.
Young says Buckhorn acknowledged the “contributions of our family,” after Young Jr.’s tragic passing, but said the mayor failed to reach out to family after his death.
“The effort is to get to some solutions as it specifically relates to justice and equality in our communities,” Young said. “We don’t assume that we will resolve this in the blink of the eye, but we certainly want one of the outcomes of this is to have that conversation.”
The day consisted of three different panels discussions, with the audience invited to ask questions of the panel. The first revolved around the police’s actions in the Arthur Green Jr. situation and relations overall with the community, the second centered around black life under the Buckhorn administration, and the last hour consisted of coming up with solutions.
This reporter sat in only the middle section, regarding the community.
Activist Life Malcolm reserved most of his anger for recently retired Police Chief Jane Castor, who he claimed was responsible for the deaths of several Tampa citizens, including Javon Neal and Green Jr.
“What is clear to me is, this is Bob Buckhorn’s police force,” Malcolm said. “What Jane Castor did, Bob Buckhorn does. Bob Buckhorn says it is his police force. He is directly responsible for its actions.”
Malcolm was joined by USF Anthropology professor Susan Greenbaum, who stunned members of the audience by saying that while she’s no fan of the current mayor, said former Mayor Pam Iorio was worse, referring specifically to the expansive use of code enforcement violations cited in Sulpher Springs.
Calling her a “clean freak,” Greenbaum called code enforcement a “tool of control and revenue generation and property acquisition.”
Malcolm said that Buckhorn hasn’t broken any promises to the black community, because he never made them. “I remember when Buckhorn was running for Mayor, I asked him what will you do for black people -what do we get for our vote? He said, ‘I’m everybody’s mayor.’ He was clear before he got that seat.”
Several people in the audience said that Tampa needs a Citizens Review Board for the Tampa Police, as is the case in cities around the country and in Florida. Buckhorn told this reporter back when he ran for mayor in 2003 that he was against such a board, the last time the issue was discussed until recently. New police chief Eric Ward will address the Tampa City Council to discuss the issue on Thursday.