Leaders of several Royston area churches, city officials and law enforcement heads held a public meeting June 12 at the Royston Wellness and Community Park to discuss concerns over racism and policing that have roiled the nation.
ROYSTON – Leaders of several Royston area churches, city officials and law enforcement heads held a public meeting June 12 at the Royston Wellness and Community Park to discuss concerns over racism and policing that have roiled the nation.
The meeting took the form of a series of speakers who each talked about the challenges faced by African-Americans in the community and how to promote racial harmony and justice.
Royston Police Chief Donnie Bolemon and Franklin County Sheriff Stevie Thomas were among the speakers.
“We want this to be a community of unity,” Mayor David Jordan said in leading off the meeting, adding that Royston takes racism seriously. “We’re not going to tolerate it. We are one.”
Royston Council Member Keith Turman said that while he is respected in Franklin County, he can take off his Royston shirt, put on a ball cap and experience racism just a few miles down the road in a different county.
“We are the only country in the world that has this much racism,” he said. “We should be better than this. It breaks my heart. We are citizens of the United States and we ought to be treated that way.”
In his work on the council, Turman said that he works to represent the whole town.
“It’s not based on what’s white, it’s not based on what’s black, it’s based on what’s right,” he said.
Turman said that leaders should be held accountable and people should make their voices heard until changes are made.
“It shouldn’t take a man dying in the street for our voice to be heard,” he said.
Turman said he is grateful for the police department in Royston, Chief Donnie Bolemon and his staff.
“I pray it never comes to this community because I believe Royston is bigger than that and we’re better than that,” he said.
David Mayfield spoke from the prospective of law enforcement, saying that no officer goes to work thinking they will kill somebody.
Mayfield said that when incidents happen between white officers and black citizens, it is not necessarily racism.
Officers try to control situations and things escalate, he said.
Officers are often judged on the actions of their worst day, he said.
Mayfield said that the public “falls into the hands of the Enemy” when it doesn’t let the judicial system do its job.
Many people don’t realize that officers are simply trying to protect and serve the public and get home to their families, while being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, he said.
“Every day, when we put the uniform on, we’re willing to die for you,” Mayfield said.
If officers are run out of law enforcement, “who are you going to call?” he asked.
Amonzo Gantt said that racism is learned behavior.
Gantt said he was never taught to look at another person’s color and that some of his best friends are white.
Still, he said Royston has traditionally been a town split between the races, with black people living on one side and whites on the other.
“It’s time for us to bridge that gap,” he said. “Systemic racism does exist, but we can eliminate it if we come together.”
Parents need to contribute by teaching their children not to look at race but to look at the person.