The teens of VOX Media Cafe hit the streets of Atlanta to find out how Atlantans feel about the top news stories this week: police, the Black Lives Matter movement and the upcoming presidential election.
Listen to their radio report here:
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This week five police officers killed in Dallas were honored during a memorial service. A gunman shot them at a protest against police violence. Nine other officers and two civilians were also injured. The gunman was not affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement. Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama both spoke at the service.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: “Faced with this violence, we wonder if the divides of race in America can ever be bridged. We wonder if an African-American community that feels unfairly targeted by police and police departments that feel unfairly maligned for doing their jobs can ever understand each other’s experience.”
The shootings in Dallas followed the recent deaths of two black men killed by police in Minnesota and Louisiana. All of this has fueled tension in Atlanta with demonstrations.
We spoke with VOX Teen Communications reporters who have been covering this story in Atlanta.
Joining now is reporter Kiaya Simone, who wanted to learn more about public perceptions on policing. She and reporters Isis Morris, Jason Crichton and Aria Brown spoke to people in Atlanta.
KIAYA: I was hoping to find out the different perspectives from people in Atlanta, understand their opinions — where they stand on the police shootings, do they feel they have have closure, if they feel that we have a better chance of forming unity.
Overall most people agreed that two wrongs don’t make a right and that the shootings were wrong on both ends in regards to Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Fifty-one-year-old Darrel Walcott of Atlanta says the Dallas shooting was disturbing, and he sends a powerful message. “That’s not a way to handle a problem or an issue. … That wasn’t right, in my opinion. Can you hear us now?”
Walcott said he wanted to see a change in interaction between the police and community. “It’s going to take a lot more than just a couple of meetings. People need to get re-trained… We need to learn how to interact with the cops, and the cops need to know how to interact with us.”
We also spoke to 22-year-old Alexandra, who didn’t have a solution to bridging the gap between police and the community and said: “I don’t think all police officers are bad; I don’t believe all police officers are good, either. I think you need to kind of decide for yourself, but I think that insecurity because of the media and all that we’ve seen makes you be more afraid of them, you know?”
Black Lives Matter
Some of our reporters also asked folks in Atlanta about the Black Lives Matter Movement, and how they feel about its impact on our country.
Joining me is VOX reporter Destiny Manson.
Black Lives Matter activist Aurielle Marie is pretty outspoken. She attended a rally in Atlanta last Monday night, July 11, where demonstrators marched to the governor’s mansion. She also spoke with Georgia Public Broadcasting, and said the Black Lives Matter movement is finishing the work of past Civil Rights Leaders.
“I believe that there was so much gained in the wake of the civil rights movement and the black power movement, and I believe there was so much lost as well. The gains outweighed the losses, but the losses impact our generation.”
But while she says there were many things the civil rights movement did well, today’s civil rights activists are more united as leaders. “This is not a leaderless movement, it’s a leader-full movement,” she said. “Everyone here has taken the initiative to be in these streets, to put their bodies on the line for what they believe in.”
VOX reporters Lucy Ferguson and Raymond Kelso also hit the streets to ask folks about how they feel about this movement. Most of the people they spoke to were for the Black Lives Matter Movement, like Atlanta photographer Rachael Nodo, who is white. “I think it’s really important to the way our society is moving right now,” she said.
But not everyone was 100 percent on board with the movement. Malik Reed of Atlanta, who is black, says the movement is needed but has divided us. “As a country it is dividing us … We have clearly seen people that are supposed to help us — like my father works for the Atlanta Police Department, I trust policemen — but I can’t really trust policemen if I can get into some situation when I end up dead just for being black. …”
VOX reporter Destiny suggests as the movement goes on it’ll further unite the country, but people have to acknowledge that people of color struggle more than others.
2016 Presidential Election
There’s no doubt everything we’ve talked about today is weighing heavily on the presidential race. Here’s Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, speaking after being interrupted at a rally by the loud chanting of “Black Lives Matter:” “Yes, they do, yes, they do, and I’m going to talk a lot about that in a minute…”
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has also talked about the Black Lives Matter movement on the campaign trail: “Alright folks, you’re going to hear it once. All lives matter. All lives matter.”
For more on how police-community tensions and the black lives matter movement will affect the presidential race, I’m joined by VOX reporter Naomi Jordan. She and Aria Creque and Latoia Johnson talked with voters in Atlanta.
The main idea we were really hearing from voters is that the candidates will mainly talk about the topics, but not do anything. Here’s David Flynn, one voter we spoke to.
“I think there’s a reason we’re seeing an escalation of protests and things like that. And I think the candidates should address that and acknowledge the realities of why that’s happening rather than just try to, again, divide and use fear to divide.”
Is there a feeling from any of the people you spoke to that the protests over police shootings will help one candidate over the other?
We spoke with Dawn Barrett, who’s a Hillary supporter, but had this to say: “I think it will probably end up helping Trump… but it’s just really hard to say, becuase I don’t know who will end up coming out and voting.”
For more on our coverage of news in Atlanta, keep visiting VOXAtl.com.
Catherine Boyd, 19, hosted this audio piece, which was reported and compiled by the teens in VOX Media Cafe last week with support from VOX volunteer Sean Powers, a reporter at Georgia Public Broadcasting.