By Rev. Nelson Johnson- August 16, 2016
The statement below was written for presentation at the August 16, 2016 Meeting of the Greensboro City Council. Because the time for speakers was reduced from three minutes to two minutes, the statement was presented in abbreviated form. I want to take this occasion to thank City Councilpersons Yvonne Johnson, Jamal Fox, and Sharon Hightower for their positive and constructive stands during the August 16th City Council Meeting.
Mayor Vaughan and Members of Council, my name is Nelson Johnson. I reside at 2115 Murrayhill Road in Greensboro. I come before the Council today to ask you, as humbly, but as determined as I can, to take a public stand against the Faircloth Secrecy Bill, House Bill 972, a Bill that will take away your right, as a Council, to allow the public reasonable access to police body camera footage.
I have come to ask you to pass the People’s Police Body Camera Ordinance that will signal to our city, our state, and to the nation that you are not complicit in “secret government,” but in promoting government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I know, and you should know, that suppressing votes and promoting secret government are dangerous trends, cut from the same cloth, that are unfolding in our state and across the nation.
I am here, also, to insist that not one dime more be spent on police body cameras until the public is granted access to current police body camera footage. It makes no sense to spend our money buying more body camera capacity that we cannot see. Buying more cameras, the footage of which the public cannot see, amounts to a publicity stunt that adds insult to injury.
On a related matter, I heard that in the July 19th City Council meeting that my Mayor waved a sheet of paper saying that a vote to repeal the Faircloth Secrecy Bill and to pass the People’s Police Body Camera Ordinance is no more than a sheet of paper. It is tragic that my Mayor would give expression to such a flawed understanding of how real and enduring change comes about.
When this Council takes a vote standing for open and just government, the Council’s position becomes the voice of Greensboro to the residents of Greensboro, and to people all over the state. It is our declaration of intent. There would have been no “independence” for this nation without a declaration, a statement of intent and commitment. We did not just automatically become an independent nation; we had to struggle for it. A clear and powerful statement from this Council, rejecting the Faircloth Secrecy Bill and promoting the People’s Ordinance, would be our declaration and commitment. The people of Greensboro, and the state of North Carolina, cannot allow a small group of money dominated, misguided ideologues in the North Carolina General Assembly to take away the voice and, indeed, the constitutional rights of the people whether it be about voting, or holding police accountable to community standards.
Let us not forget that Greensboro is the third largest city in this state, and when the third largest city of the state declares something and stands for something, especially when it has the ring of truth, urgency and justice, people will tend to join with us. That’s how movements are built. Have our Mayor and City Council forgotten so soon the lessons of the Sit-In Movement initiated right here in Greensboro? Four people sat together. That was their declaration and commitment. It led to a National Sit-In Movement.
We need a movement now, as never before, to resist abuse of police power and secret government; a movement that promotes greater people’s governance. It is the choice of our Mayor and our City Council to join that movement, or to resist it. The people will determine your fate, and history will record your stand.
Let me conclude by declaring that, we, the people, are going to be “like a tree planted by rivers of waters, we shall not be moved.” Further, “ain’t nobody going to turn us around!” So I appeal to you, my Mayor and City Council, to let us walk together and not grow weary, for if we do not quit, we will prevail in due season.