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Mayor's View: Shaken from silence, Duluth rebuilding relationships

From the column: "The city of Duluth is here to do the difficult work of healing, action, change, and transformation."

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It is impossible to un-see the murder of Mr. Floyd. Impossible to ignore the absolute betrayal of public trust at the hands of public servants. Impossible to forget the rage and outrage at everything that went wrong. That feels wrong. That is wrong.

In a separate column, our Police Chief Mike Tusken articulates in detail our shared public-safety thinking and values, both of which are actively informed by and with our community.

We hear and understand the call to be better, to prove the possibility that public safety can be a system of safety for all of our public.

To be honest, I don’t always know what to say when events happen. I don’t buy into the idea that an election certificate means you get to automatically weigh in with moral authority. And yet, as is etched within the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, in the 18th-century words of Edmund Burke, “An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak and impossible to remain silent.”

In the case of the murder of Mr. Floyd, silence is violence. We must keep speaking about the event of George Floyd. And Philando Castille. And Jamar Clark. And Daunte Wright.

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The most painful and important lesson I learned in the past year is how reliant we are on demanding we witness the repeated trauma of others before we believe the possibility that they may be right. We have heard for years that Black and Brown people — in America, in Minnesota, in Duluth — feel less safe in our systems of policing than people who are white.

Collectively, we have chosen to not believe them. We have required visual proof at the continual cost to Black and Brown lives — and that of our shared humanity.

So many times in the past year I have felt our brokenness, and some days it has felt impossible to find a way to lead through it. But we don’t get to choose the conditions upon which we lead. We can only choose the way in which we lead ourselves through the conditions.

The city of Duluth is here to do the difficult work of healing, action, change, and transformation. Of public safety and all our systems. We state with clarity that Black lives matter and don’t qualify it so other people don’t feel bad.

We believe in the good people of our current policing system and demand accountability for the broken or dangerous people who need to leave it. With intention and sincerity, action, and systems change, we are working to rebuild trusting lines of relationship with our community, lines eroded by our own actions and inactions, and of departments outside of it.

We are working even harder to believe people when they speak their truth.

Another event has happened upon which it is difficult to speak. How many more before we are shaken from our silence?

Emily Larson is mayor of Duluth. She wrote this for the News Tribune at the invitation of the Opinion page.

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Duluth Mayor Emily Larson (Photo courtesy of city of Duluth)

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