Onondaga County lawmakers displayed unity Tuesday on topics dividing the community and the nation…racism and police brutality. The group of mostly older, white men and women approved a non-binding resolution put forth by legislator Vernon Williams condemning acts of police brutality that led to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Williams, who’s African American, says the measure is not critical of local police, whom he says are among the best.
"This memorializing resolution sends a message that Onondaga County will not stand for any type of police brutality. We will not stand for injustices. We will not stand for systemic racism. This is a show of support from Onondaga County to the black community to say, 'We hear you. We support you. And we're willing to take on the fight with you.'"
Legislator Mary Kuhn agrees with the resolution's call that legislators have a moral obligation to unite and heal the community.
"This whole last week has made so many people uncomfortable. I hope that we stay uncomfortable enough. I'm hoping this memorializing resolution is the beginning of an ongoing conversation in our community."
Legislator Tim Burtis says it's high time that leaders like themselves, along with the county executive and mayor, convene a community dialogue.
"It's time to come together and have serious discussions about the community's frustrations and anger. We cannot as leaders look the other way. We cannot say tomorrow will be better. We have to work at it."
Nearly all lawmakers who spoke at Tuesday’s session condemned the violence and deadly force used by police against African Americans, as well as the vandalism and looting that occurred downtown Saturday. At the same time, they commended local law enforcement for maintaining relative peace without the serious clashes with protesters seen in other upstate cities and New York City. After the vote, Vernon Williams praised his colleagues for leading in the moment.
"This is what unity looks like. This is how we rebuild a nation, what we're doing right here. We're all from different walks of life, different backgrounds, different races and creeds. But we can agree when we see an injustice."
Williams says no amount of laws will stop racism, but working together and learning from one another can make a big dent.