Police killing exposes mayor’s troubled history with minorities: Pete Buttigieg

The black residents of Indiana City said Buttigieg’s handling of tragedy is part of a pattern that leaves people of color behind.

Last week at South Bend council meeting, the brother of Eric Logan, Tyree Bonds, says a white police officer shot and killed a black man, stood up with a message for this Indiana city, whose mayor has emerged as a surprising force in the 2020 Democratic race.

Tyree Bonds says “Stop using [the shooting] for your own personal agenda”.

He added “Our family wants justice. We don’t want yelling at the board, yelling at the government,” nevertheless he turned to the council and told it: “Do y’all’s job – that’s all we want.”

On Sunday Tensions peaked when a town hall meeting degenerates into near pandemonium as those in the audience shouted down Buttigieg and showered him with obscenities after he broke away from the campaign trail to return to the city he runs to deal with the crisis, and the emotional outburst followed days of intense confrontations among black residents; the city’s police leadership and Pete Buttigieg.

Tiana Waddell speaks during the meeting. Photo credit: Robert Franklin/AP

The killing of Logan bought about a long trend of black men being shot and killed by white police officers in the US, due to it happening in South Bend has helped upend the Mayor, Pete Buttigieg’s unlikely emergence as a power player in the 2020 race.

Often drawing huge crowds in key early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, the young gay military veteran has been mostly described as a fresh voice in politics, his successes in revitalizing the rust-belt city of South Bend can be replicated across the US.

Nonetheless, the death of Logan has created another area of Buttigieg’s record: his troubled relationships with the South Bend police and his city’s large minority populations.

South Bend residents point out that their burning outrage runs deeper than one tragic incident. They say it’s rooted in the eight years of Buttigieg’s economic policies that have often left people of color behind as they show respect for Logan’s family in the wake of the shooting, meanwhile, alleged instances of police brutality and subsequent cover-ups’ or inaction have planted deep doubt.

Tiana Batiste-Wadell an occupant in South Bend said “If you go over the last eight years, it’s about all of this – the lack of resources in the African American community, the alleged police brutality. All of these are symptoms of a larger issue of injustice,”  “So now you are hearing cries from people wanting something to change.” He said.

The shooting and killing of Logan which happened on the 16 of June outside an apartment building after a police officer responded to a call about someone breaking into cars.  Critics say Logan didn’t match the suspect’s description and questioned why police would shoot to kill someone with a knife, as the white officer who shot Logan said Logan had come at him with a knife, though the officer hadn’t turned on his body camera.  At the council meeting, the city announced an independent prosecutor would handle the investigation.

A representative of the Rev Al Sharpton was interrupted byJohn Winston Jr during the meeting. Photo credit: Robert Franklin/AP

Buttigieg’s perceived difficulties winning over black voters presented a challenge even before the incident, coupled with his clumsy handling of the shooting won’t improve his standing with the demographic.

The events also propose that South Bend may not be quite in the picture of success and prosperity that Buttigieg paints when it comes to its minority residents. Rather, there’s a sense that his policies are failing lower-income and minority residents and South Bend is a reflection of the nation’s larger troubles.

Tiana Batiste-Wadell said, “The injustices here are the injustices of the country”.

Buttigieg was praised by Blu Casey, founder of the Nu Black Power Movement of South Bend for working to improve parks and helping launch youth programs. He said “though the mayor has a good heart, he drags his feet on important issues that happen to deal with minorities.

Part of the most pressing issues which Casey labeled “corrupt” are the issues involving the police” and charged have unfairly targeted black activists during Buttigieg’s tenure.

Six new officers were sworn in last week and all were white and the department’s composition is one of the main points of contention In a city that’s 27% black and 15% Latino, 90% of South Bend’s police officers are white.

Soon after he was elected in 2011, Buttigieg was faced by strong criticism for demoting the city’s first black police chief, Darryl Boykins, after learning of a federal investigation into the department allegedly illegally recording officers’ phone calls, the calls revealed white officers using racial slurs, some of which were directed at Boykins. And this led to a major incident between the race and police in the city if about 100,000.

South Bend officers beat 17-year-old DeShawn Franklin and shot him with a stun gun, that same year, mistakenly believing the black teen was a domestic battery suspect. The federal jury knowing the department had violated Franklin’s constitutional rights, it only awarded the teen $18, and a case brought up recurrently previous week.

Last Sunday during a town hall meeting Buttigieg said he accepted responsibility for some failures but during its campaign, he did not respond to the Guardian’s requests for comment.

Buttigieg said, “As mayor of this city, I want to acknowledge those last two lines of effort – efforts to recruit more minority officers to the police department and efforts to introduce body cameras – have not succeeded”.

Left, Scott Ruszkowski, South Bend police chief, speaks as Buttigieg listens during the town hall meeting. Photo credit: Robert Franklin/AP

Buttigieg was criticized as a new wrinkle in the situation appeared on Monday when the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 36 issued a statement in which it criticized him for using the shooting “solely for his political gain and not the health of the city he serves”. It rebuked him for saying that police work could be affected by racism.

Jesse Davis, a white man who described himself as a local activist, Outside the Monday common council meeting criticized Buttigieg for what he characterized as “pandering” to the black vote.

Davis said “It appears to a lot of people that he is using this for his political gain, trying to get the black vote. And I think that’s horrible.”

Davis said further that the questions remained why the officer killed Logan, but he was not confident that Buttigieg’s administration would provide the public with clear answers. Just like most black activist, Davis charged that the administration was not plain about controversial issues.

He said, “If it’s something that they don’t want going public, then they hide it,”

There was little that would satisfy some of South Bend’s black residents, Casey said because the department could not legally immediately fire and charge officers, which is what many want.

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