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Anti-Racism Group Calls for Engagement, Not Police, To Address Louisville Downtown Violence

  The Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression is criticizing Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s plan to respond to  teenage violence in downtown Louisville with boosted police presence and added security cameras.Since a group of nearly 200 teenagers were responsible for a string of violence in the downtown area on March 22, city leaders have been hosting public and private discussions to develop programs that aim to prevent future outbreaks of violent behavior.Kathleen Parks, chair of the Kentucky Alliance, says the city needs to engage young African Americans, not build up security.“We have become a police state, that bothers me,” she said.  “We won’t have the liberty that we deserve as citizens if there is going to be cameras everywhere.”See more coverage of the reaction to the downtown violence here.Parks says the issue of teenage violence stems not from the problems with the city’s youth, but from the lack of life-affirming programs in the West End.“We need jobs,” she says.  “We need training for our youth.  We need to resurrect the community centers, we need community centers in every part of the community.  We need to saturate the West End with community centered programs.”She says the Mayor's Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods Program needs more funding in order to provide mentors to non-violently engage young people.“I’m not sure how much economic meat is on the bones of that program, we need meat on the bones,” she adds.The group also demanded an end to what they call ‘systemic racism’ that has left the city economically and socially divided.“We really need to address white people’s bigotry,” says Chris Hartman, director of the Louisville’s Fairness Campaign, adding that decades of disparities have blocked access for the African American community.“That is white people’s work, it just has got to change," he says. "Louisville has sent a strong message to the West End and communities of color, that they are worth less."Four people have been arrested in connection with a rash of assaults and vandalism in the downtown area last month.  Police officials say more arrests are expected.

Jacob Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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