City leaders along with the NAACP are calling for the Mayor’s office to restore peace after recent racially-charged incidents in the Warehouse District involving off duty cops. Councilman Jeffrey Johnson, Councilman Zack Reed and other city leaders held a press conference in front of the Velvet Dog Thursday morning. During the conference, the city leaders expressed growing concern over increased police presence targeting young black patrons on West 6th Street in the Warehouse District.
The call for action comes after the August 21st incident involving two African-American Morehouse College graduates arrested outside the Velvet Dog nightclub. According to their attorney Helen Forbes Fields, a bouncer approached the men while they were standing in the lobby of the club with other patrons. The bouncer told the two men to get out. Shortly after they stepped outside the two men were assaulted.
One of the men claims he was beaten by the off duty officer manning the door. The second man told Fields he recorded the incident on his cell phone however the officer took his phone and erased the file.
This latest incident has caused Councilman Jeffrey Johnson to suggest bar owners to use private security in their clubs instead of hiring off-duty police officers. He believes the dual role of serving as a police officer to door bouncer has caused some to blur the lines of responsibility.
Councilman Zach Reed said the Warehouse District will “go the way of the once-thriving Flats” if things do not change. He wants Mayor Frank Jackson to hold a special meeting with bar and night club owners from West 6th and demand that they adjust their strategies to prevent future incidents.
It is uncertain if Mayor Jackson will respond to the concerns raised during the Thursday press conference since the city's Community Relations Board is preparing a call to action event later this month. The purpose of that event is to talk about the issues in the Warehouse District and how they can be solved.
Blaine Griffin, Executive Director of the community relations board, said business owners, police, civil rights leaders and security personnel from West 6th Street businesses will be invited to attend.