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Harrisburg officials meet with public at Blacks Lives Matter town hall

Harrisburg officials spoke directly with the public on police reform and race relations at a Black Lives Matter town hall July 23 at Reservoir Park.
Credit: WPMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Harrisburg officials spoke directly with the public on police reform and race relations at a Black Lives Matter town hall July 23 at Reservoir Park.

Multiple Harrisburg city officials, including Police Commissioner Thomas Carter, Mayor Eric Papenfuse, and city council and school board members attended the town hall.

The town hall was organized by the Movement, a Harrisburg-based civil rights group that has held Black Lives Matter rallies and other events since May of 2020.

Protests earlier in the summer called for change, but the fact that officials came to discuss specific ways to make change was a sign of progress, said Brent Lipscomb, a community organizer with the Movement.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re on the way,” Lipscomb said. “I think this a step in the right direction. Like I tell people, this is a marathon, it’s not a sprint.”

The city is considering some measures called for by protesters, like a Citizen Advisory Committee to bridge the gap between government and the public, and a Citizen Review Board to look at complaints against police.

“The voice of the protesters had a big influence on the measures, and they’re continuing to have a big influence,” said Ausha Green, Harrisburg City Council’s public safety chair.

Emotions ran high at the town hall; some attendees argued with officials, saying the measures taken so far aren’t enough.

In response, officials addressed several other specific actions they’re considering for police reform.

“We’ve also had an initiative called #8CantWait, which is a rewriting of a use of force policy for the city, and that’s underway,” Mayor Papenfuse said.

The town hall was neither the beginning nor the end of discussions between officials and the police, organizers said. They expected the process to be ongoing.