Black Lives Matter's Bloomington group issued a list of demands for Bloomington's city government regarding the controversial decision to purchase an armored vehicle for the city police.
The organization made the demands before its screening of the police militarization documentary “Do Not Resist” at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Feb. 26.
The demands were directed at Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, Bloomington City Council, the Board of Public Safety and the Bloomington Police Department, said Black Lives Matter organizer Vauhxx Booker in an email sent to the Indiana Daily Student.
“It is our firm belief that the City of Bloomington has been subject to the misuse of power by the mayor and his office, as well as lack of transparency on the part of BPD, the mayor and the City Council,” Booker said in an email of demands.
The email called for Mayor John Hamilton, BPD Chief Mike Diekhoff and the Bloomington City Council to publicly commit to halting the purchase of the armored vehicle, a Lenco BearCat G2.
Hamilton said on Thursday, March 1, the demands from Black Lives Matter's Bloomington group were just a part of the ongoing discourse around the controversy.
"We're getting input, reactions, ideas from lots of different sources," he said. "We're gonna be taking it all in and evaluating our options."
Booker said the organization is also demanding the city government offer alternatives and discuss options with the community.
“We demand that the mayor, BPD, as well as City Council either as a whole, or by way of a special committee, provide the public with at least two alternative vehicle options that are non-militarized, priced comparably or are more economic options, armored or unarmored, by March 23, 2018,” Booker said in an email of demands.
Hamilton said the group's input was welcome, and an official response and plan are forthcoming.
"I expect by the end of this month to respond with a plan forward," he said.
In his email of demands, Booker called for the city's government to be more transparent with community members in the future.
“The onus for reparation should fall squarely upon those who failed the public, due to a lack of transparency, and failure to produce suitable alternatives to the public for discourse,” Booker said in his email of demands.
The email asked for community discussions of alternatives to be fully public.
Booker's email of demands stated public discussions of the issues should be offered at multiple times so as to be readily available to community members. The demands included meetings be laid out over a period of at least one month and offered at a public location such as the City Council Chambers.
Another demand was the release of all documents, research materials, phone messages, emails or statements regarding the purchase of the vehicle.
In an interview, Booker said he hopes the organization’s demands can repair damage to the City's relationship with the public caused by the city government’s perceived lack of transparency.
“We felt that the requests that we made were the best thing for the public,” he said. “It gave city officials the ability to prove themselves and generally kind of repair some of the damage that’s been done with the lack of transparency that permeated this process.”
Booker said he feels part of the problem stemmed from mixed messages from Bloomington officials.
“When we read the City’s press release to the media, they seem to indicate that the money has already been spent,” he said. “It’s a done deal.”
But, he said, statements from BPD’s Chief of Police Mike Diekhoff suggested otherwise.
“He’s given us the impression that the process isn’t proceeding, and that the funds haven’t been put out yet,” Booker said.
Booker said Black Lives Matter's Bloomington group wanted to make its demands before the Feb. 26 screening of “Do Not Resist” and public discussion panel so as not to make them feel like a response or afterthought.
“I wanted to do it ahead of time. I didn’t want it to be something like we did afterwards,” Booker said. “We invited the City Council to our event tonight, and we wanted to do that without any animus.”
He said he hopes the discourse surrounding current controversy will pave the way for future interactions between the public and Bloomington’s elected officials.
“We want to see that our elected officials make adequate attempts to engage the public,” Booker said. “We want to make sure that there’s transparency in the process, and that they are concerned about the voices of marginalized people in the community.”
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