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Panelists discuss the tension between police, communities

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Council member Steven Hoyt talks to one of the community members as he expresses his frustration with the leaders of the city. Panelists at the event included City Council President Johnathan Austin and Hoyt, Pastor Dr. Kurt Clark of Sardis Missionary Baptist Church, activists Myeisha Hutchinson and Chennoia Bryant, Bobby Sharp, Nation of Islam Minister Tremon Muhammad and Birmingham police officer Jay Wrenn. (Ariel Worthy photos, Birmingham Times)

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Council member Steven Hoyt talks to one of the community members as he expresses his frustration with the leaders of the city. Panelists at the event included City Council President Johnathan Austin and Hoyt, Pastor Dr. Kurt Clark of Sardis Missionary Baptist Church, activists Myeisha Hutchinson and Chennoia Bryant, Bobby Sharp, Nation of Islam Minister Tremon Muhammad and Birmingham police officer Jay Wrenn. (Ariel Worthy photos, Birmingham Times)
Council member Steven Hoyt talks to one of the community members as he expresses his frustration with the leaders of the city. Panelists at the event included City Council President Johnathan Austin and Hoyt, Pastor Dr. Kurt Clark of Sardis Missionary Baptist Church, activists Myeisha Hutchinson and Chenoia Bryant, Bobby Sharp, Nation of Islam Minister Tremon Muhammad, artist and activist Twaun Pledger and Birmingham police officer Jay Wrenn. (Ariel Worthy photos, Birmingham Times)

The gathering began peacefully with a discussion about respect between police officers and the community; residents and the community and support for nonprofits in the Ensley area.

Panelists at the event included City Council President Johnathan Austin and Councilman Steven Hoyt, Pastor Dr. Kurt Clark of Sardis Missionary Baptist Church, activists Myeisha Hutchinson and Chenoia Bryant, young professional Bobby Sharp, Nation of Islam Minister Tremon Muhammad, artist and activist Twaun Pledger and Birmingham police officer Jay Wrenn.

However, tensions began to rise when people voiced frustration with politicians and how some law enforcement officials interact with the black community.

One man, who did not want to give his name, said it was ridiculous for the panel to expect people to not be angry before being told by Hoyt not to use profanity.

“Don’t police my pain,” the man shouted back. “Let me be angry, Mr. Hoyt.”

He then criticized Hoyt for saying “all lives matter,” and not “black lives matter.”

Hoyt said he was frustrated by those who say he does not understand how they feel.

“During the April 27 storm, my daughter, wife and I were held at gunpoint in Five Points West,” Hoyt said. “I don’t need anybody to tell me about pain. I never got a call from law enforcement or the leaders of this city. I know pain.”

Fitzgerald Mosely (right) explains to the panel what Black Lives Matter means and what they stand for. (Ariel Worthy/Birmingham Times)
Fitzgerald Mosely (right) explains to the panel what Black Lives Matter means and what they stand for. (Ariel Worthy/Birmingham Times)

Wrenn who works in the West Birmingham police precinct said he wanted the meeting to go better.

“As an officer I can understand where their frustration and as a black man I can understand where their frustration came from,” he said. “But I also know that there is a way you handle everything . . . we wasted 30 minutes trying to get people to calm down as if we were kindergarteners. That’s ridiculous.”

The meeting did give him some things to consider, he said.

“Their anger shows me what [officers] need to improve on,” he said. “But it also gives me hope that things will get better because we’re willing to talk about the issues.”