‘Race Matters’ panel discussion held in Newport News

Newport News

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — As protests continue throughout the country and right here in Hampton Roads, the President of the NAACP wanted to hold an important discussion relevant to the topic.

A panel discussion titled “Race Matters” brought local and state leaders together to talk about how to promote change in light of the recent killing of George Floyd.

President of the NAACP Newport News chapter, Dr. Willard Maxwell, wanted a diverse panel to create a dialog between people and law enforcement.

“I was trying to get it diverse so people can see, yes my people are hurting, yes I’m hurting, but we’re supposed to stand as one brother and one sister together,” he said.

Those who wanted to listen were able to drive up, and tune in to the discussion through their car speakers in an effort to continue social distancing. Maxwell said it is important to work together in finding a solution to decrease animosity and violence.

“We just want the people to hear that we love you, we love you, we love you; even though you don’t feel like you have a voice, there are voices out here. You don’t have to make voices with burning down your neighborhood and burning down buildings in your neighborhood,” said Maxwell.

One of the questions asked of the Newport News Sheriff and Police Chief was, “what can be put in place to make sure police use the appropriate ‘use of force’?”

Newport News Sheriff Gabriel Morgan says that training is significant. 

“We have trained officers to be warriors for the last 30 to 40 years. We don’t need warriors in our street, what we need are protectors that can be warriors to protect you,” said Morgan.

Newport News Police Chief Steve Drew says it is important to review policies and change them if need be. He also says it is about hiring law enforcement who care about the community.

“I ask the questions: ‘How do you care about youth? How do you care about people? What’s your heart?’ That’s what I want to bring into this organization,” said Drew.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax also had a message. 

“We have got to change our laws. We have got to make sure we are building more protections for our citizens, more due process — as Sheriff Morgan said — more accountability, so not one more life can be snatched at the hands of police brutality,” said Fairfax.

He said Virginia has the chance to bring light in the middle of the darkness and create change.

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