Olean Mayor William J. Aiello’s proactive leadership sent the right message to the protestors who gathered in the city’s Lincoln Park Sunday night, Rep. Tom Reed said during his Wednesday media call.
The Olean demonstration, Reed noted, had none of the violence that erupted in cities across America as people protested the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and institutional racism.
That media call was the day after Reed, who represents the 23rd district in Congress, conversed with Aiello during the congressman's informal visit to Olean at The Sports Locker Tuesday afternoon.
Reed said Wednesday that open conversations among local leaders serve as the best way to address and fix problems of racism.
“The most productive thing I think we can do to move the needle on this issue is to do our part to change the culture, to actually have an open conversation with each other where were truly listening,” Reed said. “We’re going to have to have a forum … I think that’s the biggest thing we can offer right now in regard to elected officials, where we can lead with, show up and encourage that type of dialogue.”
Emphasizing his solidarity with peaceful protestors, Reed said he commended African American leaders who open such dialogues with officials.
“The most inspiring images I’ve seen during this entire time are those African American leaders who are in their communities stepping up and working with local law enforcement, working with elected officials and standing together in a way that shows solidarity on this issue,” Reed said.
Reed defined the death of George Floyd as “truly murder.”
And he added, “I am glad to see justice being done not only for George Floyd but for his family. Accountability is taking hold as we speak.”
Similarly, Reed emphasized that he stands with the peaceful protesters.
“I hear them. I hear the protestors. I stand with the protestors, and we should be united in positive way to move the nation forward to take on this issue of racism,” Reed said.
Reed said he supports law enforcement and the right to peaceful protests and that he rebukes those who riot and loot.
“Law enforcement … do not want bad actors within their midst,” Reed said. “That’s why law enforcement are not the bad guys here.”
Continued dialogue between protestors and officials serves as the most effective approach to solving the issue of racism, Reed said.
The congressman commented on the backlash regarding President Donald Trump’s response to protests across the nation, saying he appreciates the fact that the president sees Floyd as a person and that the president shows continued support of law enforcement. However, he added, that he believes Trump could execute his remarks with improved style and empathy.
Reed refuted reports that tear gas had been used near St. John’s Church in Washington and said he does not support using tear gas or rubber bullets at peaceful protests.
As people exercise their right to peaceful protests, they need to continue practicing social distancing and wearing masks, Reed said.
“We can still exercise our freedoms and engage in those freedoms in a way that we can respect the virus and keep ourselves safe from that legitimate health crisis,” Reed said.
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