Pence goes on listening session regarding Floyd response

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Bishop Harry Jackson gives thumbs up as he greets Vice President Mike Pence, left, who arrives to meet with community and faith leaders at Hope Christian Church, Friday, June 5, 2020, in Beltsville, Md. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

BELTSVILLE, Md. – BELTSVILLE, Md.Better training for law enforcement. More money for historically black colleges and universities. Speaking to Americans with the “right tone.”

Vice President Mike Pence got plenty of recommendations Friday as he met with community and faith leaders about how the nation should respond to the death of George Floyd.

It was part of a Trump administration effort to show it is listening to Americans as protests continue throughout the country and as President Donald Trump places his emphasis on strength rather than empathy in dealing with the protests. Pence visited a church in the Maryland suburbs near Washington, D.C.

“It will not be enough just for us to heal our economy. We’ve got to heal that which divides by breaking down barriers to opportunity for African Americans and any Americans left behind,” Pence told the group. “So, I’m anxious to gain your insight.”

Pence also assured the group that “justice will be served” in Floyd’s death. Floyd died after a white officer jammed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes as other officers watched.

Damian Cooke, a substance abuse counselor, said he worried that the event might just be a photo opportunity for the vice president but decided ultimately that a discussion about moving forward must be had. He said the nation in a sense is reaping what it sowed because black youth do not see the law as protecting them.

“These kids are angry, and they are not sure exactly what to do with that anger, and actually what the endgame may be other than they want to be heard and they want justice and they want it today,” Cooke said.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church told Pence that his father decided to leave the South after graduating from college because a law enforcement officer threatened him and discharged a gun near his ear.

“I think minorities need to hear that they are valued,” said Jackson, who worked with Pence’s office in organizing the event. “My dad was misused and abused in the ’50s, and its not just George Floyd’s death alone, but it’s representative of the almost 400-year history of challenges that we’ve had.

“So, this administration did not create this problem or this backdrop but it has an opportunity to heal it.”

One participant mentioned the president and said he would make the same point if Trump had attended the event.

“My mother told me this a long time ago, it’s not what you say it’s how you say it,” said the Rev. Derek McCoy of Compassion International. “America is listening and we have to have the right tone.”