CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Lakewood residents met with their council members Saturday afternoon after two shootings at Madison Park in less than two months lead authorities to remove basketball hoops.
“I think [the meeting] went very, very well. We tried to keep it positive,” said meeting organizer Casey Davis, of the Lakewood Outdoor Basketball Committee.
The shootings rocked the community at a time when the country is wrestling with issues of violence and racism. As often happens with discussions of race, class, and public safety in America, an at-times bitter online debate about the causes of the shooting, safety concerns, and who to blame for the shootings has been reduced to a single flashpoint: The removal of basketball hoops at the park.
On Friday, Lakewood’s Mayor Meghan George issued a statement that the basketball courts would be closed temporarily at the request of the police department.
Davis, whose organization lobbied for the creation of the full court at Madison Park as well as the half courts at Lakewood and Wagar Parks, is concerned that the decision to remove the hoops hurts children without improving public safety.
She points out that the courts have operated at Madison Park for the past two years without incident.
“A big concern is racial things — like basketball is being singled out to just eliminate a certain group of people,” she said. “It’s an issue, and nobody wants to talk about it.”
Today’s meeting was a way to start having open conversations about solutions, said Davis.
“Yes, there’s an expectation of more volunteer work. Yes, there’s an expectation that police officers will do more outreach work,” she said. “We need more community involvement.”
Those things were discussed, she said. She hopes that there will be more transparency in how local government makes decisions and why. She said she’ll be taking part in future public safety meetings regarding the park. She said her group will also continue to go back every Saturday at 4:00 p.m. until the hoops are back up.
“I am very optimistic about this changing, and I think it’s going to take some pressure,” Davis said.
She does have one request for those involved in this debate: Stop labeling the basketball players.