With poll numbers among black voters being low to nonexistent for him, presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg faced scorching questions from South Bend residents at a meeting yesterday (24 June).
Passionate people of color grilled the Democrat at a packed town-hall-style meeting that he held in his latest attempt to respond to the fatal police shooting last week of Eric Jogan, a 54-year-old black man, in South Bend, Indiana.
In what captures one of the candidate’s largest challenges – building a following among black voters – one resident simply shouted: ‘We don’t trust you.’
According to the New York Times, locals grilled the 37-year-old mayor.
In a vast high school auditorium, Buttigieg looked out towards crowds of residents.
One, Blu Casey, an activist, summarized: ‘He’s doing bad within the black community right now.’
Buttigieg and his relationship with the town’s police forces proved to be a point of contention that night.
No wonder. Last week, a South Bend cop shot and killed a black man, Jogan, who later faced allegations of racism.
But pointedly, a policy – that officers must wear body cameras – became the center of ensuing controversy after it emerged that the officer failed to switch his camera on.
Buttigieg admitted his failures
Buttigieg conceded that his efforts to recruit a more diverse police force had failed.
Moreover, he voiced his disappointment over the failure of the body camera being switched on. When discussing the city’s requirement that officers use the cameras, someone called out: ‘Why haven’t you been enforcing it, then?’
When the mayor defended his record of engaging residents on policing issues, another person shouted: ‘We don’t trust you.’
He also took the time to listen to concerns from black residents. Especially the policy authority’s mistreatment of the black community in the town.
Furthermore, he told the audience that he would ask for a federal investigation of the shooting and for a special prosecutor to be appointed.
Protesters have requested that an outside agency review the case, but the St. Joseph County prosecutor has so far declined to request a special prosecutor.
Support remains divided
The 37-year-old was the upstart neither Democrats and Republicans saw coming. But it’s in part due to his branding.
Quickly billed by his scholarly background and multilingualism, white voters bolstered Buttigieg up the ranks.
However, no candidate in recent years has won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, or even advanced far in the nominating process, without substantial support from black folk.
While his presidential bid is one branded as bridging a new political era – the first openly gay president of the US – he remains tethered to the racially divided Midwestern town of South Bend.