Community members speak out about racial issues in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - As racial tensions flare throughout the country, members of the Columbia community spoke about racial issues at Monday night's city council meeting. Four different members of the community expressed their concerns about the current state of race relations in the city.

Mayor Brian Treece addressed the crowd to offer his thanks for how the city handled the recent protests in the downtown area. He also expressed his grief about the recent tragedies throughout the country regarding racial and law enforcement deaths.

Tara Warne-Griggs spoke about the matter of racial disparities in traffic stops in Columbia. She wanted to inform the council on the discrepancies in the data released by the Columbia Police Department regarding traffic stops.

"Driving while black is not an anecdotal crime, and I think that is important," Warne-Griggs said.

David Aguayo voiced his concerns over the racial inequities in the city. Aguayo is a former educator in the community and believes there is still racial profiling within schools.

Traci Wilson-Kleekamp spoke about the need to enforce peace. She wants to emphasize the need for "peace officers" instead of police officers. She also wanted to stress the need for money to go to social equity in the community as well as money for the police.

"I think we need a new police chief. I think we need a 21st century police chief," Wilson-Kleekamp said.

Miguel Horn spoke about the barriers that prevent families from healing after tragedies and the need for the community to communicate effectively across races.

The meeting took a very emotional turn when Columbia Chief of Police Ken Burton discussed a recent police survey  and members of the crowd took offense to his interpretation of the survey. Members of the crowd began to curse at the chief and then walked out of the meeting.

Later in the evening some of the group that walked out returned to the meeting to talk to the council again. Council members tried to stress the need to come together and work as a unit rather than walking away from each other. The meeting ended without a resolution to the matter, but both sides want to try to communicate effectively to find a solution.