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Black leaders say Fargo officials aren’t addressing demands

June 17, 2020 GMT
Sgt. Cristie Jacobsen, center, of the Fargo Police Department, receives hugs from organizers at the end of a George Floyd memorial in Fargo, N.D., Friday, June 5, 2020. Jacobson was brought up to the stage at Island Park while musicians performed the song "Lean on Me." Hundreds of people attended the peaceful rally that included speeches, live music and dancing. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)
Sgt. Cristie Jacobsen, center, of the Fargo Police Department, receives hugs from organizers at the end of a George Floyd memorial in Fargo, N.D., Friday, June 5, 2020. Jacobson was brought up to the stage at Island Park while musicians performed the song "Lean on Me." Hundreds of people attended the peaceful rally that included speeches, live music and dancing. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)
Sgt. Cristie Jacobsen, center, of the Fargo Police Department, receives hugs from organizers at the end of a George Floyd memorial in Fargo, N.D., Friday, June 5, 2020. Jacobson was brought up to the stage at Island Park while musicians performed the song "Lean on Me." Hundreds of people attended the peaceful rally that included speeches, live music and dancing. (AP Photo/Dave Kolpack)

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Fargo’s mayor and police chief are responding to complaints they have stopped talking with black leaders in the city about a list of demands that grew out of protests over George Floyd’s death and racial inequality.

Wess Philome, organizer of a community diversity group OneFargo, told KFGO radio on Wednesday that Mayor Tim Mahoney and Police Chief Dave Todd have declined to address the demands, including upgrading the charges against a man who allegedly hit a protester with his vehicle. Philome earlier criticized the police for allowing that May 30 protest to turn violent.

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“We want to get back to the table, but we want transparency and truth,” Philome said.

The demands unveiled at a June 5 protest include the creation of local police oversight boards that would not include law enforcement, requiring officers to undergo cultural diversity training, stopping the surveillance of activists, and ending the use of tear gas, rubber bullets and certain other police tactics.

Todd said he has offered to meet with OneFargo and Black Lives Matter leaders, “even if they don’t like me or don’t like the mayor.” He added that “there has to be a willingness at some time to put the anger aside and just sit down and have dialogue.”

Said Mahoney, “Wess, I am happy to meet with you anytime. Let’s sit down and talk.”

Todd was also criticized by protesters for a June 1 email to the department in which he referred to demonstrators who damaged buildings as violent protesters and thugs, which many view as a racially coded term that targets black Americans. The chief apologized Wednesday for the terminology and said he was not referring to peaceful protesters. He added that he was “coming off a pretty emotional event” after Fargo officers were attacked and injured.

OneFargo and Black Lives Matter organizers are planning two marches in the next three days. The first is Friday’s celebration of Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. That march will start at Island Park and continue to City Hall, where city leaders from Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota have been asked to sign a letter of intent to open communication and hold regular meetings with black leaders.