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Tensions were high at the city council meeting on June 4. Council members struggled to make it through their regularly scheduled agenda as protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter” and interjected with passionate pleas for change. But a man with a plan stepped up to the microphone, calmed the crowd and got Mayor Ron Nirenberg to listen.
Pharaoh Clark works with the nonprofit Uniting America Through Wisdom. He said he didn’t plan on speaking that day but came prepared with a ‘petition for peace and justice.’
“I noticed that the city to me wasn’t addressing the true issues at hand. We were talking about budgets for parks, potholes and sidewalks, which I feel are all important issues, none of which can trump the precedence of what we have going on right now. So something in me just said “stand up and speak”. So I did,” Clark explained.
Clark wrote a list of 10 requests that he believes would push San Antonio in the right direction towards ending police brutality and racial injustices. The list includes implementing things like zero-tolerance policies for racism and discrimination with police forces, jails and courthouses and proper vetting systems to prevent racist ideologies among the police force. Clark’s list also demands transparency and a more diverse police force.
While recent protests across the country began over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Clark says people will not go home until they feel like they are heard and change happens locally.
“Every American should search their heart and they should ask themselves, 'if my loved one was killed unjustly, would I want justice? Would I tell those people to go home, to shut up, to stop protesting? Or would I want them standing there by my side fighting to try to ensure justice,” Clark explained.
After presenting his petition, Clark met with Mayor Ron Nirenberg and walked him down to the downtown rally. Nirenberg said he and Clark will meet daily to try and tackle Clark and the community’s list.
One of Clark’s biggest priorities is an independent review board. He says average citizens would represent their respective districts on a monthly basis. They would acknowledge issues within the community including police conduct. Clark says ideally this review board would have access to police complaints and the power to weigh in on disciplinary action.
“I was just watching as it went through the protest all around the world, not even just in our country. And I really started thinking “this is sad”. It’s sad because the whole society is erupting and there has to be a solution,” said Clark.
Clark said he’s been a part of the local protests, marches and rallies but struggled with finding a peaceful way to make change. He says this list was the first step to getting lawmakers to listen.
“I believe that this is part of what society is, not only the leaders, but also the community working together to make the society better for everybody,” Clark said.
For more information on Clark’s mission and organization visit https://www.unitingwisdom.com/