Activists demanded that city officials take stronger action to combat police brutality during an Athens City Council meeting Monday, charging that Athens has not followed through on its promises to combat systemic racism.
Although councilmembers passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis in June, activists from Athens County Copwatch say the city hasn’t followed through on the action plan outlined in the resolution.
“You committed to doing something that it seems you have no intention of actually doing,” Damon Krane, a member of Athens County Copwatch and former mayoral candidate, said.
That resolution asked Athens Mayor Steve Patterson to establish a working group to promote racial equity, as well as provide equity training to all elected officials, employees and staff, according to a previous Post report. The activists said that the city has failed to conduct research and provide a statement on institutional racism within Athens.
“You stated that institutional racism, including within policing, is a problem nationally, then you directed Athens city government to investigate whether it’s also a problem locally,” Krane said. “You said if any instances of institutional racism were discovered within Athens city governance, you’d take the necessary steps to eliminate them, so the course of action that your resolution laid out is totally sensible, you just didn’t follow it.”
Athens County Copwatch has provided police data to the public that highlights police violence, excessive spending and systemic racism within local Athens police departments.
Genesis Vaughn, a member of Athens County Copwatch, asked that council defunds the police in order to combat systemic racism within the Athens Police Department.
“Let’s stop making empty promises, let’s start protecting our community. Defund APD and make Black Lives Matter,” Vaughn said.
Athens County Copwatch has found that APD uses force on Black people at 2.6 times the rate than their white counterparts, according to the Copwatch website.
“We’re just calling for you to do exactly what you pledged to do three and a half months ago. So if you want to post to Facebook saying ‘I am not a racist’ that’s fine, but how about you show us what being anti-racist looks like?” Krane said.
Krane said that, despite being one of the poorest counties in Ohio, APD and OUPD combined spend more money on police per capita than what the state of Ohio spends per capita on all local and state police.
Ellie Hamrick, a recent city council candidate, said that the city should redirect police funding toward combating poverty.
“The only sensible solution is a massive redirection of resources away from harmful and unnecessary policing and toward ending poverty,” Hamrick said.
Athens City Council passed an ordinance extending the parklet pilot program through Nov. 15. Currently, Brenen’s is the only business in Athens’ Uptown that has installed a parklet, according to a previous Post report.
Council also passed an ordinance reducing vendor license fees for Uptown vendors from $125 to $62.50 a month, a reduction of 50%.