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Akron City Council Moves Toward Declaring Racism a Public Health Crisis

Protesters took to the streets in Akron again over the weekend, just ahead of a move by City Council tonight to consider declaring racism a public health crisis.

The first reading of the legislation comes after two consecutive weekends of protests in Akron and throughout Ohio over the killing of George Floyd. Imokhai Okolo is a University of Akron law student who attended a memorial for Floyd in Akron on Saturday. He says one way to combat police brutality is to defund law enforcement.

“So we can’t continue to give police millions and millions of dollars and allow them to be reckless and careless with that money if it’s not giving us better results.”

City Council President Margo Sommerville says she 

hopes to announce at tonight’s meeting some of the measures that would eliminate racism.

“We wanted to really take our time and be intentional about putting together something that would not just be words on a piece of paper. But something that we can actually attach some resources to. So that we can really think about how we can bring the community together to really thinking about how we’re going to deal with this public health emergency.”

Summit County Council will consider its own legislation at its meeting next Monday. During Saturday’s event, Akron-area State Rep. Emilia Sykes also said she’s asked lawmakers in the statehouse to consider similar legislation.

Cleveland City Council declared racism a public health crisis last week.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.