FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - "What happened to our country two weeks ago was unconscionable," Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said as he spoke to a crowd gathered on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Bridge downtown Thursday.
"It did not need to happen. People were in the wrong. Police officers in Minneapolis went too far," Henry said as he referred to the death of George Floyd. "That situation will never happen in the city of Fort Wayne. It won't happen because number one we're going to make sure our officers are trained over and over again. "
Mayor Henry then directed his comments to the unrest that followed in Fort Wayne this past weekend. "What happened on Friday and Saturday night was a sad statement for this community. We can do better, and we have done better, and will continue to do better," he said.
Mayor Henry then handed the megaphone to Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed. "We know from this weekend we all can do better and we're going to do better," Reed said.
The crowd then began changing, "Follow Through! Follow Through! Follow Through!"
Some protesters handed out a paper titled, "Peaceful Protests: Riotous Demands." Those demands include a call for "a comprehensive and public assessment ... of use of force policy." They were looking to gather signatures signifying a commitment from leaders to "meet with a team of protesters and clergy of color in an official sit-down within the next five days."
The demands include:
- Institute citizen-based anti-racism training
- Ensure transparency, accountability and safety of our communities by requiring body cameras to be actively recording for all police officers who are on duty.
- Institute a local citizen review board for fatal and excessive force police incidents, elected by residents from the community.
"You know how many unity marches we've had? Lots. Guess what happens? We go through these marches and then everything goes back to normal," Sean Johnson told Fort Wayne's NBC News. "Then two or three years later somebody gets wrongfully arrested, wrongfully hurt."
Fort Wayne's NBC News also spoke with Wayne Township Trustee Austin Knox. "What's your take?" Fort Wayne's NBC Anchor Tom Powell asked Knox after the march.
"I hope it's not just a photo-op. I hope that there is some real change that hopefully comes out of this. I hate people that talk the talk but don't walk the walk," he said. "So hopefully we get the leaders here in Fort Wayne to get some policy changes done so this doesn't happen here."