Escorted Out Meeting Mid Sentence, Accusations on Both Sides

Leah Uko

OMAHA (KPTM) - Tuesday, members of City Council pushed for a new "Pledge for Peace" initiative. They are asking the Omaha and Douglas County communities to get involved with helping reduce crime on the streets.

The meeting was open to the public. One man who opposed this initiative got on the microphone to state his reasons why.

"If three or more gang members are in the same place, it is considered a felony," D'Shawn Cunningham said to the council. "So how you expect these people to come together--your pledge doesn't make sense; it's illegal."

Many people listening to Cunningham's remarks--some who supported the initiative--agreed Cunningham made some valid points.

But his point got lost when he started dropping specific council members' names.

"Ben Gray. You have the most face to save. All of north Omaha knows you remained silent regarding Robert Wagner's beating, which you witnessed," he said.

"Chris Jerram you said you would actively do something to reinstate the auditor. You have done nothing," Cunningham said as he turned to the next page of his written remarks. "Mr. Gernandt, you are a former police officer. You should recognize the need for--."

Councilman Gray interrupted Cunningham to tell him he was out of order and that they "are not talking about a police officer".

Cunningham cut Gray off to say, "let me finish".

Gray fired back and told Cunningham he was done.

City Council President Tom Mulligan interjected.

"Turn the microphone off please," he said.

Cunningham kept reading his remarks until officers stood up to escort him out the room.

Later Councilman Garry Gernandt accused Cunningham of having his own agenda and personally attacking council members instead of simply stating his position.

Outside the district courthouse Cunningham explained that city council members "have to expect that people are going to call you out by name--that's part of your job and if you're not comfortable with that maybe this is the wrong job for you."

He said the peace initiative would not do enough to stop crime because it puts the responsibility on the public and not elected officials.

"We don't have the power to propose oversight for the police that comes from the city council."

Others who were inside the meeting during the arguments agreed Cunningham should have not been escorted out.

"I'm a long-time resident in this community," Carl Tyler who said he supports the initiative and Ben Gray's efforts to encourage it, said. "I'm glad to see guys like him stand up and speak out. Whether I like what he's saying or not. He was not disrespectful to anybody. He had a right."

The "Pledge for Peace" initiative is City Council's newest efforts to get businesses, organizations, churches, schools, law enforcement and everyone else apart of the Omaha and Douglas County community involved in helping get crime off Omaha's streets.

Every council member voted in support of it on Tuesday.

But many people, like Latron Louis, admitted the initiative is just a first step in a deeply rooted issue.

"The thing is stay in your lane. If you don't know anything about gang banging and if you don't know anything that's going on and you're not coming to the real community meetings and you're not there to hear the community cry out for help," Louis expressed then the problems in Omaha will remain.

Not everyone at Tuesday's meeting opposed the initiative. In fact, majority of those who spoke out were in favor of it.

Pastor Edward King who is the youth director at Hope Center for Kids off 20th and Burdette streets said he feels that if one child dies "that should be motivation enough for everybody that's involved to be more active--to be more proactive in trying to do what they can to stop."

He also said people should avoid always thinking negatively about elected officials and efforts to fix violence in Omaha's neighborhoods.

The center's director of operations, Deb Johnson said the center would support the initiative in order to show the youth that violence is not a normal way of life.

"It's not what being a kid is about. We want kids to know that they can be kids and they should feel safe," Johnson said.

So although the loudest voice in the meeting was someone who was opposed to the peace initiative, many supporters' silence proved effective.

Which technique will lead to peace--we are following the "Pledge for Peace" initiative's progress.