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Mayor Mueller talks protests, next steps to real change

NOW: Mayor Mueller talks protests, next steps to real change

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Cities nationwide have erupted in protests and riots to speak out against police brutality after the officer-involved killing of a black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis.

South Bend has had its own history of officer-involved shootings of black residents like Eric Logan last year. And several protests over the last week reflect the needed change residents want to see in the city going forward.

South Bend Mayor James Mueller ran under the platform of public safety and racial justice reform knowing that with this city’s history, that there needed to be change community-wide as well as within the South Bend Police Department.

He said that with everything that is happening in Minneapolis right now, hopefully, it’s going to spark change nationwide and here in South Bend too.

“This is the culmination of things that have happened over a long period of time. And, you know, the anger and pain and frustration that we haven't addressed these things fully and it's 2020 is certainly real,” Mueller said.

The officer-involved death of an unarmed black man in Minneapolis has sparked outrage and protests among activists across the country.

The movement - shining a light back on the death of Eric Logan in South Bend, a car break-in suspect who was shot and killed by a city police officer last year.

The South Bend Common Council writing in a statement Thursday:

“That outrage has been and continues to be felt locally through the killing of Eric Logan last year. The original outrage is compounded by an investigation into the shooting which left many valid questions unanswered in many people’s minds. This outrage stems from historical injustices and racial disparities that have existed in our country for hundreds of years. It must change and it must change now.”

“There’s been a lot of different issues that we've seen people come out and protest, but I think it's clear that this one captured the most energy and the most amount of people and rightfully so,” Mueller said.

Mueller took his position in the middle of it all and ran on a platform of public safety and racial justice reform.

“We had a lot of community conversations last summer last fall. And it's some updates to use of force, the escalation policy, as well as you know, making sure that our body camera policy and implementation is going as we expect, and that was an issue,” he said.

The city is currently working on a discipline policy matrix regarding use of force and equality of justice as well as looking into a citizens review board.

The coronavirus has set back progress but Mueller says this is a good time to create real change in our community – now that everyone is listening.

“It’s a reminder and I do think that this particular incident has raised awareness beyond the normal kind of groups that pay attention to this. I think this goes across the political spectrum in terms of the outrage, and that we have some work to do as a society,” he said.

Mueller said they will hopefully be able to make some announcements soon regarding the progress the city is making.

Now, there have almost been two full weeks of protests and riots across the country since the unrest began in Minneapolis. A handful of protests have been held in South Bend and the Michiana area, but each one has remained non-violent.

Mueller said he is proud of how everyone has stayed peaceful, even though all the anger.

“It's great that we have a good community. That's making sure that while we're expressing that anger and frustration that we are, you know, doing it in a way that that's not getting out of hand,” Mueller said.

Officers were ready in case the protests did become riots. They were ready for any kind of looting. We saw some businesses prepare by boarding up their doors.

But in the end, violence is just not what we saw during these protests, unlike cities like Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.

In South Bend there was minimal police presence. In a protest earlier this week we even saw officers handing out waters to the protesters.

In recent days here have been rumors swirling on social media saying violent protesters or looters would be coming into South Bend.

While those rumors don’t seem to be substantiated by police at this time, Mueller had this to say to any outside groups who do plan to come to South Bend.

“We're a tight-knit community here. And this is something that we want to address as a community and we're not looking for outside groups to come in and I know that a lot of the leaders for the movement also don't want to see this get hijacked by outsiders. So, we're hopeful that that that remains to be the case that this is something we are working to address as our community and not bring in outside groups,” he said.

Again, police have not confirmed any rumors about violent protests headed for South Bend at this point, but of course, if we learn anything at all we’ll pass that along to you on-air and online.

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