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Saturday, December 06, 2014

Wichita's Community Voice editor, Gooch- speaks on solutions to police and race

From Wichita Peace and Freedom Party Examiner:

The latest police shootings, including the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner have sparked a turning point in the civil rights of Black people, according to Benita Gooch, at this years Peace & Social Justice Center's Annual Dinner. Gooch is the editor of The Community Voice (Wichita). She was the main speaker at the dinner and annual business meeting for the Center, held at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church. About 50 people attended the event.
Gooch's speech was planned months in advance but was made more relevant with the news of police shootings, grand jury investigations that lead to acquittals and the protests in the aftermaths.
" I though it would never get as bad as it was in the '60s," Gooch told the crowd. But now it seems to me it is as bad as the '60s and before. Michael Brown has proven that things have not worked."
She said these latest action is serving as a turning point in America.
"There has been a lot of frustration fueled by the media and social media," she explained. The media and social media are fanning the flames. But there is some good in it. We couldn't have had a march so quickly if it weren't for the social media."
Gooch talked about marching in the Journey for Justice walk, which was organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The demonstrators marched120 mile march from Ferguson to the Governor's Mansion in Jefferson City. As they went through a few small rural towns they were jeered by some of the town's residents. There were confederate battle flags, someone put a watermelon and chicken along the road and one man wore a Ku Klux Klan like mask.
"The things they said were Ugly," Gooch said.
At times Gooch spoke about local politics.
"(Wichita Police Chief) Norman Williams had to go," she said.
She added that he encouraged black people to remain silent when they had problems. Gooch said Black people in this community still have to deal with police profiling.
"I've been stopped myself," she added.
Gooch was skeptical that a lot of the ideas that are put forward will solve the police problems by themselves. 
"Internal review boards?" she asked "I don't have much faith in those."
She added that videos alone won't solve all the problems.
"This week we have video and no conviction," she pointed out.
She said one problem we have now is over-criminalizing people. She supports the new changes in the marijuana laws that members of the Peace & Social Justice Center are trying to get passed. The changes would reduce the crime of marijuana possession to only a fine for first time offenders.
She said too many people are being jailed for minor offences and the police should focus on the real criminals. She added that too many black people get harassed over minor offenses and they get tired of that.
Another problem she talked about is the militarization of the police. They often come into communities with army style equipment, including machine guns.
"Machine guns?" she said. "Stop the militarizing of the police."
About 50 people came to hear Benita Gooch, editor of The Community Voice.

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