Man scolds council over crime


Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A prominent member of the local black community claims the Rocky Mount City Council is too focused on building the Event Center instead of getting a grip on crime, and poor black neighborhoods are suffering because of it.

The comments were met with a stern rebuke from Andre Knight, one of the city’s four black council members.

“Don't come here blaming me,” Knight said. “I'm going to fight on this council as long as I can for equality and parity for all, for those who didn't have representation for 150 years. Don't blame me, go to the root of the problem.”

Johnny Cunningham, executive director of ReGroup, sparked the confrontation during Monday’s council meeting when he said the council has left poor blacks out of the equation, leading them to be exploited, used, abused and counted for less than nothing so members of the council could make a profit.

“Taught and told: Rocky Mount is booming, Rocky Mount is growing. Tremendously. Industry is coming in. And there's sunny days ahead. But you have miserably failed the poor black community in Rocky Mount,” Cunningham said. “Just last week on Arlington Street, a 63-year-old man, walking in his own neighborhood, murdered, robbed and left dead laying in the street, one block from your new event center, two blocks from City Hall, three blocks from the police station. But it's normal. That's the normal occurrence. That is where you have led the poor black community in this city. That's where we're at.”

Knight said the community has to help because the police department can't fight crime on its own.

“I can't stop no boy who got a gun in his hand that got a vendetta against his buddy, know he's hanging on the corner. Bang Bang. We don't have enough cops to stand on every corner. But we've got enough eyes in the community to reach one and teach one,” Knight said. “So when you start reaching and teaching, bring them to the council meeting.”

Knight said the so-called opioid crisis is an example of the lack of parity between blacks and whites that has made it difficult for the council to accomplish downtown revitalization.

“Don't blame us,” Knight said. “Blame the criminal justice system when it was crack cocaine that gave black men life in prison, 21 years in prison. When they were calling them crack babies, monkey babies. But now you've got a repentant spirit on what's out here now — opioids. You come here, you won't get arrested, you just get treatment. Where was the treatment for those mothers when people brought crack into south Rocky Mount, Little Raleigh, the neighborhood and sold crack cocaine? And they died on the street and left crack babies. Where was the sympathy for them then? But it is now.”