The Newtown Florist Club is sponsoring a two-part series of “open-air” conversations for members of the Gainesville/Hall County community to address concerns with local criminal justice officials.
The conversations will give speakers the opportunity to voice their opinions, address issues or lodge a complaint directly with a team of officials, which includes law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, solicitors and judges.
These conversations are the latest in several events that have been sponsored by the Newtown Florist Club, a Gainesville-based civil rights advocacy group. Each of the events have called for equality and a peaceful end to racism following the recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, among others.
Reverend Rose Johnson, Executive Director for the Newtown Florist Club, said the conversations provide a peaceful space for many people to be heard.
“I think that it is a very exciting moment in the life of the community because there are so many diverse opinions and thoughts and ways that we can pull together and work together around this issue of equal justice,” said Reverend Rose Johnson, Executive Director of the Newtown Florist Club.
The first conversation will take place on June 18 and officials who will be in attendance have been asked to only listen to speakers from the community. Johnson said officials from law enforcement at both city and county levels will be present, as well as representatives from the local judicial systems.
“It is a very impressive coming together of criminal justice officials in response to what is happening nationally and how it impacts our community,” said Johnson.
While those who wish to speak at the first conversation were required to sign up ahead of time, Johnson said anyone in the community is invited to attend and listen. The event starts at 6 p.m. at the pedestrian bridge above Jesse Jewell Parkway.
Johnson said event organizers have categorized the topics of conversation from the community for the first event into three areas: issues that relate specifically to law enforcement, concerns about the Hall County Jail and issues related specifically to the court system.
The second part of the series is scheduled for July 2, where those from the community will hear some responses from the officials that were at the first conversation.
Johnson said that her and the Newtown Florist Club’s goals with these conversations are to move the community forward even more when it comes to criminal justice equality.
“When it’s all said and done both of these pieces can come together perhaps in a road map that can take us even further in our work around criminal justice issues that impact black and brown people, specifically in this community,” said Johnson.
The conversations follow a rally and candlelight vigil that have been sponsored by the club in the last few weeks. Both events have been peaceful.