BY ANDREAS BUTLER
More than 50 people attended a forum titled “Civil Unrest Forum: Charlottesville, A Call to Action, What Would You Do If It Happened in Our Own Backyard?” at the Daytona Beach Police Department headquarters on Aug. 31.
The event was hosted by the Citizens Coalition to Improve Race Relations in the Greater Daytona Beach.
Civil rights and community activists Norma Bland moderated the event; she is president of the coalition.
Bland remarked, “The events in Charlottesville (Virginia) had an awakening for me. What if it happened here? How can we put together a contingent plan for protection of our neighbors and ourselves?
“We know what the police would do to protect us, but how can we as citizens protect one another. I am pleased with the turnout. We only need a few people to get the word out,” she added.
A panel took questions from the moderator and the public in regards to issues on racism, hate groups, White supremacy rallies, the Charlottesville rally last month that had a tragic end, law enforcement responsibilities and protocols, as well as health care.
•Daytona Beach Mayor Der- rick Henry;
•Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri;
•Daytona Beach Deputy Police Chief Jakari Young;
•Volusia County/Daytona Beach NAACP President Cynthia Slater;
•Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church Pastor Father Phil Egitto;
•Rev. Monzell Ford, senior pastor of Kingdom Minded Ministries Worldwide and vice president of the Black Clergy Alliance;
•Port Orange Police Chief Thomas Grimaldi;
•Gregory Elder, Bethune-Cookman campus safety chief/director;
•Halifax Health Security Chief Mark James.
Freedom of speech
The question was asked if these White supremacist groups have the right to protest and rally under the U.S. Constitution.
Fields explained, “This is the easiest way to explain the limits of Religion, Assembly, Press and Free Speech (RAPS) under the First Amendment. My rights go as far as they can before interfering with yours. We both have the freedom of speech. Yours go until they hinder mine. .You can tell me to shut up, call me a ‘B’ word or a racist, but if that restricts my rights to travel, associate, work, get educated or to raise my children, then yours become restricted.”
The judge continued, “The RAPS rights under the Constitution aren’t wide-open. They can be confined. You can’t disrupt a school or church. You can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater. You can assemble.”
She further added, “Those who work in law must protect your rights no matter how we feel. You can call a person a “nigger.” It may not be moral, but the Constitution gives you a right to do that. You can call someone a homosexual, but you can’t discriminate against them when it comes to housing, education and employment.”
On hate groups
During the forum, it was also brought up that there are hate groups. including White supremacy groups operating locally.
There are 63 known hate groups in Florida and over a dozen in Volusia County.
Slater commented, “We keep our ears and eyes open to make sure that we know what is going on in the community. We also work closely with law enforcement to make sure safety is addressed.’’
Law enforcement also is monitoring activity, including online, which was how groups communicated for the Charlottesville rally.
Port Orange Chief Grimaldi noted, “We are yet to create our cybercrimes unit like the Daytona Beach Police Department. We are working on it. The common theme is about communication. We have to communicate with the public, students, political leaders and law enforcement. Right now we have no credible threats. We do know that things do exists. We reach out to our partners in law enforcement. We’re not naïve.’’
Law enforcement at all levels have plans of action for all protests and rallies as well as if White supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan or neo-Nazis came here for a rally or protest.
“The way it works is that if one law enforcement agency in the county calls another. We get together and the others come in to assist,” Chitwood explained. “We do it how that municipality wants to handle it. We won’t tolerate violence. Iif you’re on either side and you’re violent, you’re going to jail.’’
Capri added, “All the police chiefs and the sheriff meet once a month. We train together.
We get along and work well together. That’s not the case around the country, but here we do. We want to help each other. That is how we get things done. The community also benefits from this cooperation.’’
The forum was streamed live on the Daytona Beach Police Department’s Facebook page.