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Local protest demonstrations have been earmarked by a peaceful insistence that meaningful change take place locally and across the country.

How will leaders respond? With empty promises? Or with action?

Local needs include (but certainly aren’t limited to) redevelopment of the west side of Anderson, where many black residents live; more educational programs to engage minority youth and tap their potential; community outreach by police and other local leaders to build bridges with neighborhoods, and initiatives to address Anderson’s poor health behaviors and outcomes.

While this isn’t the time for all talk and no action, open discussion is required to determine specific needs, how to address them and how to procure resources for the purpose.

The police department should be first in line.

Mayor Tom Broderick and Police Chief Jake Brown took an initial step toward reform by issuing a public statement that APD officers would no longer use chokeholds to restrain suspects.

That step was mandatory after the May 25 death of George Floyd when he was pinned to the ground with a Minneapolis police officer’s knee pushing down on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd was the latest black man to die in police custody, and it touched off protests across the nation. Demonstrators are demanding an end to police brutality and an end to racial injustice.

Those two goals should be a mandate for police departments and government units across the nation and here in the Madison County area.

Local mayors and town officials should convene public forums to listen to complaints and ideas from local residents, then should form a panel with local government officials sitting side by side with minority leaders to draft specific reform measures addressing a host of issues.

Such a panel would need to meet regularly across the course of months, creating new policies and enacting action plans.

Without this sort of organized, centralized, transparent approach to racial inequities here in Anderson and the surrounding area, positive change would come in only fits and starts.

As a community, we can’t afford to dither away any more decades without confronting these stubborn issues that have haunted us for a century and a half. Let’s strike while the iron is hot.