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Meeting set to bridge 'dividing line' between community, law enforcement
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Community meeting

What: Meeting between area pastors, community leaders and area law enforcement

Where: Antioch Baptist Church, 1010 Mill St.

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

A group of church and community leaders plans to talk this week with area law enforcement on ways to improve relations and “build partnerships.”

The meeting, sponsored by the Interdenominational Black Ministers Alliance, is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Antioch Baptist Church, 1010 Mill St, Gainesville.

It serves as a follow-up to a Nov. 26 rally in Gainesville in response to civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., but the meeting is more focused on “the dividing line between law enforcement and the minority communities,” said the Rev. Matthew Little, the alliance president.

“We have more than just Ferguson (as examples),” he said, citing other incidents, including one Nov. 22 involving a 12-year-old boy carrying a BB gun who was fatally shot by Cleveland, Ohio, police.

“This (event) is about strengthening relations between the minority community and law enforcement,” Little said.

Still, Ferguson served as a major flashpoint highlighting distrust between those two groups.

In that case, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot and killed Aug. 9 by a white officer in a predominantly African-American neighborhood.

A grand jury’s decision in November not to indict Officer Darren Wilson not only fanned flames in the St. Louis suburb but ignited protests in communities across the nation.

In Gainesville, several speakers expressed frustrations in a rally at the federal courthouse on Spring Street.

As far as current relations with area law enforcement, “there’s room for improvement,” Little said Sunday afternoon.

“There’s still a level of distrust from the community ... certainly with recent events that really heightened those emotions and thought processes,” he said.

But the situation isn’t hopeless.

The goal in Thursday’s meeting is “to be proactive and have a clear dialogue of what our concerns are and what (law enforcement) concerns are and how we can help each other out,” Little said.

Regional events