Texas Millennial Institute hosts police brutality forum

Rachel Freeman

The Texas Millennial Institute hosted its first event, a forum at the Student Activity Center discussing police brutality in the Austin area, on Monday.

TMI is a nonprofit, transpartisan organization which aims to bring about social change through activism. Monday’s event aimed to mobilize the Austin millennial community against police brutality by bringing a community of like-minded individuals to discuss activist ideas, according to the TMI website and Noelle Mandell, TMI chief executive officer and philosophy and sociology senior at the University of Houston.

“This is the first major event we have done through Texas Millennial Institute, and we are really excited about it,” Mandell said. “In Austin, there is a community that is in an uproar about police brutality. We want to bring issues like this into the campus bubble and do activism by bringing together the strong campus voices we have.”

Topics ranged through the night from how participants felt about racism in their communities, police brutality in their lives and the general public’s perception of these topics and activism projects. Area resident Stephanie Webb discussed how he felt about the popular Twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which was used after several high-profile cases of police shootings of black individuals across America.

“A problem with the conversation of race in America is how the media has portrayed #BlackLivesMatter,” Webb said. “People have taken it to mean that not everyone’s lives matter, which is not what we are saying at all. The problem is how we are seen to have separation between little camps of black people over here and white people over there. That’s the thought that is creating the fear — and apparently the violence.”

Local community member Stephen Leger felt that also adding to what he views as the problem of police brutality is the way officers are trained before joining the force.

“The critical incident of training which law enforcement go through is completely sub-par,” Leger said. “To have this course as the resource most officers use is dangerous. We need to communicate about other resources available. And that’s another thing about this conversation — we can’t just say what’s wrong with the system [such as police training] without saying how to fix it.”

The forum went over a wide range of ideas about how to fight against police brutality — ideas such as marches, protests and discussions with legislation were discussed, but nothing was decided. The organization will host forums in the future on LGBT rights in Denton and women’s issues in College Station.