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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Listening to the voices — reaction to the Expo mess

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In the wake of the July 17 downtown shooting during Black Expo, the bigots emerged from their dark, dank hiding places with a vengeance.

There were so many racist, hate-filled, tea partyesque comments on the Indianapolis Star’s Web site that comments had to be shutdown.

Racism, bigotry and ignorance also were exhibited on the Web sites and social networks run by Indy’s television stations.

But some of the anger was legitimate. Since the infamous 1996 downtown police brawl, Hoosiers have had a low tolerance for serious violence and misbehavior downtown. Blacks and whites (and I suspect Asians and Hispanics) were all angry at what occurred.

The mainstream media was curious about what Blacks thought. Channels 6, 8 and 13 visited our WTLC-AM (1310) “Afternoons with Amos” program and caught the anger of our community at irresponsible parents and youth as well as problems that Black Expo, while not responsible for the violence, must still address.

WIBC-FM (93.1) even invited me to appear on their afternoon talk show about Black reaction. What I heard from their audience, in a brief half hour, was that whites weren’t just concerned about the downtown violence, they were apprehensive about one of the proposed solutions. A “clean zone” with security checkpoints downtown was proposed by Public Safety Director Frank Straub. A nice sounding idea that would create serious civil liberty and Second Amendment problems.

Despite white bigotry and Black angst, there was common ground between the races on some issues.

There’s agreement that Indiana Black Expo must present a more family- friendly face and actively encourage families to attend the events together.

Parents must assume more responsibility over their children to insure that they’re not out at all hours unescorted and unsupervised. This isn’t just a downtown issue; it’s an issue for Fishers, Greenfield, Brightwood and Pike Township.

Let me add that it’s time that Indianapolis, our African-American community, and the general population stop ignoring the reality of gangs. We haven’t heard much about gangs in recent years. Police and prosecutors haven’t talked much about it. Neither has the mayor or Black and white elected officials.

But gangs are all over the documents charging Shamus Patton with the alleged downtown shooting during Expo. In fact, that’s the only way Patton could’ve been charged as an adult, by linking him to alleged gang activity.

It’s also time that Indianapolis seriously listens to the views of its young people. During a special “Afternoons with Amos” Monday, I talked with 12 teens about the importance of ending youth violence and having more positive activities. They also stressed the importance of adults, parents and grandparents talking, relating and interacting with them and other teens.

But there’s no youth, and few people with experience working with youth and teens, on that Task Force named last week by Indiana Black Expo. That absence of this type of expertise is a central weakness, a fatal flaw, in the Task Force.

I realize Black Expo was under tremendous pressure from the mainstream media and perhaps key sponsors (Lilly Endowment, perhaps) to do something in the wake of the violence.

But when you announce a “task force,” special committee, or something like that in a crisis, you make the announcement and perhaps name the group’s chairs. Then announce all the members at one time.

But in their haste, Expo named some of the committee’s members, but not who was chairing it.

What our community sees is Expo leaving out critical constituencies, by design or in haste, which angers and feeds the apprehensions of many in our African-American community that Indiana Black Expo has lost its roots.

It seems that Expo officials, many of whom weren’t nurtured in the organization’s formative years, don’t understand the special place that IBE has in the hearts of our community.

Indiana Black Expo wasn’t created by a few to serve many. It was created by many to serve many. A coalition of all the factions, cliques and tribes in our African-American culture. Expo welcomed and celebrated our community’s political, social, economic and geographic diversity.

Today, many Blacks feel that Expo’s agenda has narrowed – politically, socially, geographically and economically.

Repeatedly last week, “Afternoons with Amos’” callers and e-mailers were withering in their criticisms that Expo has lost touch with our community.

Symbolic of that was Expo giving its highest award to Mayor Greg Ballard.

Finally, there’s the police and prosecutor’s case against the alleged shooter Shamus Patton. The probable cause affidavit is very detailed, with witness statements and evidence, but there’s some “beef” missing. No weapon was found. The link to shell casings and bullets found in Patton’s home are tenuous.

And then there’s that video.

Remember, Public Safety Director Straub said to the media, literally, 15 hours after the shootings that they had the shooting and the shooter on tape. In fact, an hour before Straub told the media they had Patton on tape he told me live on WTLC-AM (1310), “Actually, Amos the cameras caught everything. We have the shooter. We know who he is.”

Now, doesn’t that sound to you like they had Patton on tape, committing the crime? Identifying him like an “NCIS” episode?

So, why is there no mention of the video in the probable cause affidavit? A couple of lawyers I talked to Monday, who read the affidavit, say if the police and the prosecutor had Patton on video, it would’ve been in the charging documents. That’s literally smoking gun evidence.

If they don’t have slam dunk video and this case depends on witnesses who saw Patton but didn’t see him shoot; on bullet casings, but no weapon; this may not be the slam dunk case Straub, Mayor Ballard and police think it is.

Like Expo, IMPD’s credibility with our community is on shaky ground. I hope there’s a tape like Straub said. If not, if there’s a credibility gap there, what other cases (Brandon Johnson) might have a credibility gap?

See ‘ya next week!

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