At noon today, WGAL News 8 streamed a press conference to debrief after yesterday’s police shooting on the 300 block of Laurel Street, which ended with the death of Ricardo Munoz. Invited to speak were Mayor Danene Sorace, City Councilor Ismail Smith-Wade-El, Reverend Roland P Forbes Jr, and Delia Sanchez of the Community & Police Working Group.
Below is a brief summary of the press conference.
Mayor Danene Sorace
Mayor Danene Sorace delivered a visibly emotional statement about last night’s events while reiterating Lancaster’s new “commitments to racial equity”, which include exhausting use of nonlethal weapons before shooting and and de-escalation training for mental health crises. She then lamented the lack of established systems in place to help victims like Ricardo, who was reportedly suffering from an episodic psychotic break.
She blamed state and county budget cuts for the lack of protocol, programs, and professionals able to help in such situations. She also noted that the one (1) existing social worker in the police department is only available during normal business Monday through Friday.
The Mayor called upon Federal and State Representatives to support “efforts to improve the quality of our neighborhoods, especially around housing and economic inequality”.
She condemned those who damaged property during the protests and advocated for peaceful assembly.
Since the police shooting is currently an active investigation, she was unable to share information regarding specifics or respond to many questions present media proposed.
Mayor Sorace denied knowledge about the use of rubber bullets by police reinforcements.
She thanked the chief of police and officers on the scene.
City Councilor Ismail Smith-Wade-El expressed that he feels we should move past last night’s incident and move the discussion towards resources for behavioral health, affordable housing, social services, and community care.
He also expressed that 911 dispatch needs desperate attention, and dispatchers need higher pay.
He placed a tear gas canister on the podium and thanked everyone who showed up to work regardless of washing the gas off their clothing the morning of. He noted that many protesters attempted to thwart those damaging property.
Reverend Roland P. Forbes Jr.
Reverend Roland P Forbes Jr, who works with the Community & Police Working Group, acknowledged the grief of the Lancaster community and thanked city council, the mayor, and police for their efforts.
He warned those damaging property of coming consequences. He called for peaceful assembly and asked everyone to come together to find a solution.
Delia Sanchez, who also works with the Community & Police Working Group, blamed social media for “false narratives” and “lies” being spread.
She stressed the severity of need for mental health services, especially for the homeless.
She also acknowledged peaceful protesters who were attempting to separate themselves from more violent members of the group.
In this press conference, Mayor Sorace continued her normal pattern of deflecting blame and responsibility to higher "powers that be" and "budget cuts". She expressed a powerlessness and grief that leaves viewers wondering: what is it, exactly, that you can do here?
The Lancaster Changemakers have attempted to pressure the mayor before regarding her responsibilities and commitments, most of which appear to be performative and lacking in urgency. Her statement contains more of the same verbal gymnastics around the real issue at hand, instead addressing problems such as poverty and housing security.
Though Counsilor Ismail Smith-Wade-El, Mayor Sorace, and Delia Sanchez did note that peaceful protesters were vehement about keeping more "violent" demonstrations at bay, intimidation tactics and excessive force used by the police was a subject much avoided.
Furthermore, none of the speakers offered the victim of last night's shooting or his family much consolation or attention, besides a few one-sentence expressions of remorse.
It's also worth noting that while social media can be active proponent of false information, it's also a largely effective organizing tool used by organizers and activists looking to exercise their lawful, constitutional right to assembly.
To read more about how the Mayor's commitments to "racial equity" fell short in last night's tragedy, click here.