“We don’t feel safe” was the rally cry among citizens at Tuesday’s Fort Worth City Council meeting as they packed council chambers at City Hall to make sure their voices were heard in response to the shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in her home recently by former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean.
Dean was responding to a call for a security check by a neighbor late Saturday night/Sunday morning.
Dean, 34, resigned and was arrested Monday for firing a single bullet through a windowpane while investigating a neighbor’s report about the front door being open at Jefferson’s home.
Dean was charged with murder.
Jefferson was, in fact, a part of the opening prayer from Reverend Karen Calafat from St. Luke’s in the Meadow Episcopal Church as she asked for comfort for those who mourn.
“May our grief be transformed into a force for peace and justice,” Calafat prayed.
Nearly 60 people signed up to speak during the citizens’ comments portion of the meeting. However, many did not wait that long to make their statement, and some spoke multiple times, such as Lauren Ward.
“I’ve come to say black and brown people are not safe,” Ward said, also suggesting that City Manager David Cooke and Assistant City Manager Jay Chapa be fired.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price addressed her, as she did numerous times throughout the evening with others, saying, “I will remind you, according to the rules you must speak on the topic you signed up for.”
Price’s heeding fell upon deaf ears, it seemed, as several from the community spoke on the Jefferson shooting whenever they had an opening. Some, such as Pamela Young, found a clever way to force their opinion onto the council when she spoke during a vote on an agenda item concerning Panther Island zoning.
“What zone do black men and women have to be in not to be killed?” she said, adding when admonished by Price, “I’m talking on the subject in my own way. What is the vision we have to have to live here and be safe.”
Like many, she was escorted from the podium by officers, often to the chant of “We don’t feel safe!”
“Until we address the systemic racism in this city we don’t need to talk about anything foreign,” Minister Dominique Alexander said, speaking during an agenda subject concerning a foreign trade tax exemption for Allied Electronics.
“I do not feel safe to speak on that topic right now. My wife does not feel safe to speak on that topic. My four children don’t feel safe,” Donte’ Williams said, speaking during another agenda item.
Price again spoke up, saying, “Let me remind you all there are a lot of people who have signed up to speak according to the rules as we ask, and if you want to speak on the topic…”
She was interrupted once again with the chant, “We don’t feel safe.”
And when the citizens’ presentations portion did come around, there were plenty ready to speak on the same topic that had already dominated the evening.
Gerald Banks wore a shirt that had a large red stain on it, appearing to symbolize bloodshed.
“The wild, wild west is back and out of control here in Fort Worth. Ten shootings in the last six months, and you think that’s okay,” Banks said. “We won’t forget. It’s time to vote for change. If you officers are afraid, get another job. We see through your smoke screen, and you too. Stop killing us!”
Price reminded the speakers no outbursts would be allowed. Still, the chants of “We don’t feel safe” arose.
Emily Milning sang a song when she took the podium, “Oh Lord, I want to thank you for one more day.”
Then she said to the council, “This is not just a problem for the black and brown community. It’s an American problem. It’s not too late, any of you could be the one to take a stand for your fellow man.”
Then, she ended her speech with, “I won’t hold my breath. So tonight, when you get home, take a second to enjoy the view looking out of your window.”
Tyler DeLuca incited the protesters when he asked them, ‘Do you feel safe in here?” To which they responded no.
Then, DeLuca turned to the council and said, “They’re not afraid of you anymore. They’re not afraid of your lap dogs anymore.”
After the meeting had reached nearly five hours, a visibly upset Price brought it to an abrupt end, but not before praising the family of Jefferson.
“Kelly Ann Gray (District 8 councilwoman) and I had the honor today of spending about 35 or 40 minutes with the A-Team, which is Atatiana’s siblings. It was an incredible moving experience,” Price said. “She was a beautiful young woman. As a mother, a grandmother, my heart was touched today.
“Her siblings asked me to do this to honor her (close the meeting). I will close tonight’s meeting in honor of Atatiana Jefferson.”