BLACKSBURG, Va. – Hundreds gathered outside the Blacksburg Police Department on Tuesday afternoon for the “Dialogue on Race” to discuss race relations in Montgomery County.
Attendees heard from activists, local elected officials and law enforcement from Montgomery County, Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Virginia Tech.
People brought signs, some hoping to voice and show their anger and frustration. Virginia Tech grad student Jamie Anderson was one of them.
“[I want to] show my face and my support and let people know that I want to be heard,” said Anderson.
One of the event organizers, Penny Franklin, said local law enforcement and community members have been having these conversations for nearly a decade as part of the Dialogue on Race community group, which is aimed at understanding and improving race relations in the county.
“Bringing folks out to hear about the work that is going on, how they need to get engaged because if we don’t act, nothing will change,” said Franklin.
Christiansburg Police Chief Mark Sisson said it all boils down to trust.
“Our public, our citizens, our community: they have to trust us, but we have to earn that trust,” said Sisson. "And we have worked extremely hard to earn the trust of our community. and I feel very confident that we’ve proven that we are law enforcement organizations built with men and women of integrity and character and at the end of the day, they’re going to do what’s right.”
Speakers said it was a conversation about equality, the justice system, police work and politics that has just begun.
“I’m happy that we’re beginning to have a start of a conversation," said Anderson. “But there’s so much more work to be done.”