Councilwoman Pruitt Gives Emotional Speech To Her Community

Councilwoman Crystal Pruitt grew emotional April 27 as she spoke of her reactions to issues over the past year during teh Township Council meeting.

An emotional Crystal Pruitt on April 27 gave voice to the anxiety over the issue of police violence normally felt by people of color and exacerbated after the verdict in the case of a white former Minneapolis police officer found guilty of killing an unarmed Black man.

The At-Large Councilwoman, head of the Council’s public safety subcommittee, said that she struggled over what she should do in the wake of the guilty verdict in the Minneapolis case, which hinged on several videos of the killing of George Floyd, taken by bystanders.

The case, she said, was the latest source of anxiety in a year of pandemic isolation, civil unrest in the streets and continued police shootings of people of color.

Her voice cracking at times, Pruitt brought fellow Council members through her thought process to answer the question she had posed to herself.

“I came here and asked for your votes because I wanted to be in a position to bring truth to power, to give a voice to the voiceless, and after a year of this pandemic and going, police shootings, social unrest, I’m struggling in what I’m supposed to do,” she said. “How can I make the people I represent feel seen when I didn’t feel like that myself.”

Pruitt said that a colleague suggested that she write two statements, one each for a guilty and not-guilty verdict in the Minneapolis case.

“So I sat down and tried to make two different statements, but I couldn’t because the statement was the same,” she said. “One guilty verdict does not erase the killings of Black and Brown people by police, and it doesn’t make our community feel safer. And while for Mr. Floyd’s family, it may bring them closure and a personal justice, what we witnessed with that verdict was accountability; a man was held accountable for his actions.”

Pruitt said that many in the Black community feel accountability is ignored when a person of color is killed by a police officer.

“Our experience has told us that we shouldn’t get our hopes up because the system will protect itself, not us,” she said. “Because to me, when people clamored about justice being served, I didn’t feel that, because to me, justice means change.”

“Justice is ensuring that communities do not fear the police,” she said. “Justice is continuously and consistently holding officers and government accountable to ensure safety and transparency. Just is dismantling systems that have perpetuated and condoned these murders in the first place.”

The Councilwoman said that she has “great affection” for township police officers, “tremendous pride” in the department and “significant trust” in the FTPD leadership.

“I am confident they have taken the events that occurred in the past year seriously and are working to strengthen their relationship with the community,” she said.”

“But as I sat down and thought about this and asked myself what I’m supposed to do, what became clear to me was what I’m supposed to do is to make sure that the events that occurred and continue to occur post-verdict do not happen here,” Pruitt said. “What I’m supposed to do is to keep this community safe and make it clear that the type of behavior cannot and will not be allowed to take root here. What I’m supposed to do is keep this community safe and what I’m supposed to do is hold space for the pain and fear of my community and hear them, and make sure that it does not go unanswered.”

“What I’m supposed to do is work with the police director, our department and my colleagues here on the council and make it clear that we take all police-related incidents, even if they’re out-of-state, seriously, and we take justice seriously and that we be held accountable because that’s what we owe you,” she said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do, and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

Pruitt’s speech drew praise from her fellow Council members.

“I encourage you to continue to lead the Council public safety committee, and to continue to work on there,” Councilwoman Kimberly Francois told Pruitt. “I want to encourage you to continue to have the passion you have for the work you are doing for our community, and I want to encourage you to continue to fight for our community, and to hold our police department accountable and to hold us accountable as well, to do what we need to do for our community.”

Deputy Mayor James Vassanella also thanked Pruitt for her “heartfelt words.”

“I can’t say enough good things about your commitment and your work with public safety … you can’t have safety without justice, and you can’t have justice without safety,” he said.

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