Bridging the gap: Advocacy group 200+ Men calls for safer interactions with police


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Over the next three weeks, the nation will relive the horrifying estimated nine minutes when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on the neck of George Floyd and killed him. Video and still cameras captured what some called a televised lynching.

George Floyd Square is shown on Feb. 8, 2021, in Minneapolis. Ten months after police officers brushed off George Floyd’s moans for help on the street outside a south Minneapolis grocery, the square remains a makeshift memorial for Floyd who died at the hand of police making an arrest. The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin will begin with jury selection on March 8. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Prosecutors call the case against Chauvin second-degree murder and manslaughter. Jury selection, originally set to begin today was delayed at least a day while a judge considers a third-degree murder charge in the case.

During the trial, the 24-year-old community advocacy group, the Hampton Roads Committee of 200+ Men Inc., will host a community discussion aimed at bridging the gap between minorities and police. This discussion will take place as social media and technology have changed perceptions on incidents involving the use of force

“When these incidents occur somebody is right on top of the incident with a camera that is taking photos. It [ images] brings attention to these issues in real-time as they are occurring and I’m sure that they [images] provide evidence people need in terms of being able to prosecute,” said James Gray, President of the Hampton Roads Committee.

Photo Courtesy: James Gray
(Photo courtesy: James Gray)

The video didn’t surface until 2020, but in 2019 a Virginia State Trooper played to the camera when he forcibly removed a Black man from his car. The officer involved in this case has been disciplined but not criminally charged.

Officers in the Rochester, New York police department are under investigation after they pepper-sprayed and handcuffed a nine-year-old girl Black girl who was distraught because of family matters in her home.

In Virginia Beach, a video went viral when a wrongly accused Black man, dining with his family, was taken into custody by Virginia Beach police officers. They later apologized after realizing they had the wrong man.

Gray, who is also the Vice Mayor of Hampton, says the forum will address perceived inequalities.

“Law enforcement has to be able to do their job but people want to know they are being respected and want to know they are not unfairly targeted,” said Gray.

And laws have changed in Virginia. For example, police can no longer pull someone over and search a car based on the scent of marijuana.

“We want to make sure they know all the right things they need to do [such as proving a valid license and registration when pulled over] but at the same time, we want to make sure we are having the conversation with our police chiefs to let then know what the feelings are of our young people.

The virtual forum will take place March 20, 2021, at 9:30 a.m. on the 200+ Men Facebook page and the organization’s web page. This is free and open to the public but registration is requested.

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