Lake City uses “barber shop” conversations to discuss relationship between police and African Americans

Pee Dee

LAKE CITY, SC (WBTW) – As peaceful demonstrations take place across the Grand Strand and Pee Dee, one Florence County city talked about the issues African Americans face nationally and locally.

Mayor Lovith Anderson Jr. says he wanted to create a casual environment for people in Lake City to share their concerns and fears in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and the global protests.

He thought the best model for that was a barber shop.

“The average shy guy would go in a barber shop and you would not believe how much he could talk,” Mayor Anderson said.

The city held the first “barber shop talk” Tuesday night, featuring the mayor, Police Chief Kipp Coker and a member of the Florence County Sheriff’s Office.

“What we want to be able to do is get our communities, large and small, to come together and start addressing those issues so that we can build on that,” said Mayor Anderson.

The mayor also says he plans on having more of these barber shop talks, including one in an actual barber shop when it’s safe to do so.

People got the chance to ask about how city and county law enforcement are working on racial issues. They also gave suggestions for what can be done to improve the relationship between police and the public.

The focus was especially on how to connect with young African American men and boys.

“With this generation that’s coming up, we see social media, therefore, a lot of people live their lives through social media,” said Lake City resident Jaquan Speights.

“We got to establish a community action team to get out in this community because growing up in Lake City, the difference I see back then and now, we don’t have the programs we had,” said Lake City resident Justin Hanna.

High school junior Jeremiah Thames and Hamilton College sophomore Christian Hanna also spoke about a peaceful protest and demonstration they’re organizing with the city.

Chief Coker says he wants to address the issues black people in Lake City have felt for years and especially what’s going on now.

“George Floyd’s murder was wrong,” he said. “The officer was wrong. There’s no doubt about it.”

The peaceful demonstration is scheduled for June 19, which is also the day celebrating the end of slavery called Juneteenth.

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