This week marks at least 129 days since 5,000 people marched through the streets of Fargo in the name of justice and equality. Through many years of being an activist, I had never experienced that many people activated locally in the name of change until the George Floyd protest. It was a must that we took advantage of the moment. The only way I could personally assure this was to be a part of the core myself. We owed it to George Floyd. There was no question our resolve would be tested, but it was a challenge I spent my entire life being built for. I remember sitting in a meeting room with Mayor Mahoney, and Chief Todd after finding out from the former Deputy Chief Osmundson that he had been in constant communication with the PD on May 30th.
When confronted with this information, Mayor Mahoney would go on to ask if we were trying to go forward or backward. Four months later, and I can’t help but accept that Mayor Mahoney has stuck to his word. Choosing to seek the truth, in the end, has robbed us of progress. But ignoring the truths of corruption in the name of progress would not have equated to progress at all. The only tangible change is a chokehold ban, with exceptions. Despite repeated calls for dialogue, the Mayor has refused to have a seat at the table with us. While speaking during a city commission meeting, the Mayor would go on to cut off my mic for voicing my displeasure with the interim police chief selection process.
The Statement of Intent, which was presented to us by Mayor Mahoney on June 3 has basically been left for dead. It was a joint agreement between the cities of Fargo, West Fargo, and Moorhead that would lead to a governing body that would act as an equality task force.
The City of Fargo has now asked that we bear the responsibility of getting it past in the other two cities, despite the Statement of Intent being Mayor Mahoney's idea. We sat down with Governor Burgum for a meeting about two months ago, and shared our frustrations with the lack of progress, and poor treatment; months later we have yet to hear back on any action plans. Double-digit peaceful marches, rallies, and events have been held in the area, and still, no changes have been made. It seems the powers that be are content in their ways, and continue to struggle with being challenged.
They'd prefer to simply wait out the storm in the hopes that it will simply go away. If only they knew that some of us have nowhere to go back to. If progress is going to be made, it is necessary that our city leaders take the time to listen and reflect. Mayor Dardis, who took a good bit of heat during our initial meeting on June 3rd has quietly gone about seeking change in the West Fargo area. I commend him for taking even the little action that he has. In four months we have yet to hear from Mayor Judd.
Though we may not be heard here in Fargo, it does not mean we will be silent. So many of us in this community have awakened to a world that we refuse to close our eyes to. With consistent pressure, we will eventually have a breakthrough. That is what it means to be, OneFargo. That is the definition of WeAreOne.
[Editor’s note: Wess Philome is an organizer and activist based out of Fargo.]
February 10th 2021
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