Confederate flag shooting spurs forum on violence

By Tiffany Lankes

Published: Thursday, June 25, 2009

SARASOTA – Peace activists will hold a community forum tonight in response to the shooting of a teenage boy during a fight that reportedly started after he carried a Confederate flag down Main Street.

The forum will be at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

"When something like this happens we like to let the community come together and have a conversation about it," said Joyce Raby, who helped put the event together.

"We’re hoping to teach citizens and also students how to react in those kind of situations."

The shooting happened in April.

Raby said that community leaders invited to speak at the event will talk about diversity in Sarasota and how to peacefully resolve conflicts.

The forum will feature a panel that includes city and law enforcement leaders, as well as administrators from Sarasota High School and the Sarasota Military Academy.

Sarasota High Assistant Principal Chris Cale will talk about a new tolerance program the school is starting called Communication, Compassion and Contribution.

The program includes mentoring for students and training for teachers. Students involved will take a special class and complete a community service project.

Cale expects about 50 students to participate in the first year, and hopes it will grow after that.

"The shooting incident definitely made us realize this is something we need to pay attention to on our campus," Cale said. "The goal is the students will take what they’re learning into the school and into the community so it will have a greater impact."

The forum is being sponsored by the Peace Alliance, the Coalition for Inclusion and Diversity and the South West Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice.

The groups hope to have follow-up sessions in the fall.

"There’s been a concerted effort from everyone involved," Raby said.

"I’m just amazed how they have all responded to our call for help."

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