Jason Shelton

JASON SHELTON

We were preparing for a long summer of mounting deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic. Then a Minneapolis police officer put his knee on the neck of an unarmed black man and left it there until the man expired. The pandemic has already taken more than 100,000 American lives, but a single intolerable act has thrown the nation into chaos. George Floyd was his name, and his death was another tragic example of injustice in America.

One life. History has long shown that a single death can spark a revolution. In the case of George Floyd, it was more than just his death. It was the way he died. We witnessed a man pleading for his life. The video infuriated a country on edge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since his death, thousands of angry people have taken to the streets of America in protest. Over 1,600 people have been arrested in nearly two dozen cities, and the National Guard deployed in 15 states.

This is an important time for all of us to take a stand against racial injustice. As your mayor, I can say without an ounce of reservation that the City of Tupelo will not tolerate racism. As the result of this incident, we have a unique opportunity as a community to advance the work of task forces which we have put into place to address any issues of racial inequality. Instead of shying away from this conversation, we want to actively engage and do everything we can do to resolve and do better in our city. Yesterday, we held an open meeting with our administration, Tupelo City Council, the Tupelo Police Advisory Task Force, and the Tupelo Community Outreach Task Force. Many concerns were addressed, and we are committed to doing the hard work to restore trust.

In recent years, the City of Tupelo made changes toward creating an effective, transparent police department. The Tupelo Police Advisory Committee was formed to act as a liaison between the Tupelo Police Department and our citizens. Members of the task force were appointed by Tupelo City Council and myself. In addition, a Tupelo Community Outreach Task Force was formed to bring all voices together, addressing any social concerns in our city. We also added an integral position to our administration, a Tupelo Outreach Coordinator. Tupelo was the first city in our state to create these task forces, and they are doing great work in our community. But there is still work to be done, and we will do it. The important thing is that everyone be given a voice and collaborate on ways we can eliminate any racial inequities or issues which affect the lives of the citizens of Tupelo.

Our nation is hurting. Please join me in praying that our president will develop a calm and compassionate message to ease tensions and help heal our country. Leadership matters and it is desperately needed during these turbulent times.

JASON SHELTON is the mayor of Tupelo. Readers can contact him at jason.shelton@tupeloms.gov.

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