Human relations group responds to racial incidents

2013-03-26T20:30:00Z 2013-03-26T20:47:23Z Human relations group responds to racial incidentsSusan Emery Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
March 26, 2013 8:30 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Valparaiso's Advisory Human Relations Council is moving forward with a response to local incidents involving racially derogatory comments.

The incidents involve minorities walking in the city and targeted by verbal racial slurs by people driving by in vehicles.

Residents, and Valparaiso University undergraduate and law students, have reported being targeted.

At its regular monthly meeting Tuesday at Valparaiso City Hall, the council agreed to have Chair Ivan Bodensteiner appoint a subcommittee that will develop an action plan.

The panel also plans to engage businesses, churches and Valparaiso University, which has a large minority population, in the effort to take a stand against the offenses.

“It's something you hear about all too regularly,” Bodensteiner said.

Addressing the issue is challenging because victims are usually unable to identify who the perpetrators are, and the First Amendment protects the right to free speech, Bodensteiner said.

“We're not going to stop it, but we want to express that most people in this community don't believe in that,” he said.

In another matter, the council agreed to form a subcommittee on police-community relations.

Bodensteiner said he was contacted by Valparaiso Police Chief Michael Brickner as part of efforts to proactively address issues that may arise in a diversifying community such as Valparaiso.

The group's goal will be to forge a connection between the community and the police in a nonincident setting, similar to the National Night Out program that unites police with residents.

The council also agreed to ask Mayor Jon Costas to consider joining the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition, which aims to prevent criminals from illegally obtaining guns while supporting the Second Amendment and the rights of citizens to own guns.

Mayors of several cities in Indiana have joined the group, including those in Angola, Bloomington, Fort Wayne, Gary, Muncie and South Bend.

The council's next meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. April 23 at Valparaiso City Hall.

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