Decatur commits $50K toward ‘tangible’ actions to fight racism

Protesters hold signs downtown on Monday. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Protesters hold signs downtown on Monday. (Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

The city of Decatur plans to allocate $50,000 to directly address racism in the community and plan a series of training sessions and town halls.

The city commission’s vote Monday night to amend the budget comes amid demonstrations in metro Atlanta and around the country protesting police brutality and the recent killings of black men and women. Locally, the community is grappling with another racist video posted online by Decatur High School students.

The money will go toward anti-racist training and education for members of the community and town-hall style events to discuss the issue, Decatur Mayor Patti Garrett said. While the details are still being worked out, she said the city leaders wanted to “take some tangible steps to make something happen.”

Tony Powers, a city commissioner and the mayor pro tempore, first proposed allocating the funds during Monday’s meeting.

“I heard the call that we need to do more,” said Powers, who is black. “Speeches don’t make great policy. Actions make great policy.”

Garrett said the training will have an “anti-racist, equity lens” and will be offered to residents as well as volunteers who serve on city boards and commissions. She said Decatur’s police chief has also offered to work with a group of Decatur High School students who have spoken out about racism to have conversations about the role of the police department.

Decatur, a city of about 25,000 where about one-fifth of the residents are black, has a reputation for being progressive and inclusive. But the mayor acknowledged that “we still have hatred and anger in our communities.”

“I personally just ache for this ongoing, continued hurt that has been inflicted on and felt by people of color in our community,” she said.

Just last week, a racist video emerged of a Decatur student holding what appears to be a toy gun that the boy says he uses to kill black people. The boy utters a racial epithet and then imitates the sound of three gunshots. It was at least the third racist video in a month to emerge online from Decatur.

“We have a problem that has manifested itself in our high schools,” Powers said during the meeting, later adding that “we can do better. We will do better.”

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