'What Now?': MTV Town Hall Addresses Police Violence

Franchesca Ramsey and Charlamagne

"Now we’re having a two-way conversation — what can we do, but also what can law enforcement do?”

MTV hosted a town hall Friday night to provide a dialogue about the recent tragedies of police violence and shootings. 

What Now? was hosted by network talent including Charlamagne Tha God, Jamil Smith, Marc Lamont Hill and Franchesca Ramsey. The town hall, co-hosted by MTV News and BET News, streamed live on YouTube and Facebook Live as it aired on 10 Viacom networks.

The event began with a look back "at this insane week" with a short video piece explaining the recent deaths: Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Thursday’s police shootings in Dallas.

Hill said that it came down to the fact that this week’s events “have been putting a spotlight on something that’s been happening since the beginning of America.” He continued, “But now we’re having a two-way conversation — what can we do, but also what can law enforcement do?” He later said that the NRA is a major part of the problem with discussions, and that "the rights of gun owners is really the rights of white gun owners." 

Charlamagne spoke to hip-hop artist Pusha T via video, who told the host, “I don’t think it’ll get better until the police start getting policed. Period.” The artist added that to him, it’s an issue of “accountability.”

The hosts also spoke with the studio audience, who told them they were feeling “unsafe” and were tired of “hashtags without reform.” Ramsey said that one of the problems that comes up after incidents of police violence is that “our media is implicit in the way that we talk about these situations” and “in the way we frame these victims."

She added, “There’s no such thing as a perfect victim,” arguing that often media stories come down to blaming the victim as a way to provide an excuse to situations that turn violent.

The hosts next spoke with Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who called in to the town hall. “This has been such a painful week for this country," she said, but “we have an opportunity to make some change.

“We’re at a point where the rest of America is acknowledging what this community has known for years,” she explained, "about situations that we face when we encounter law enforcement." Lynch added that “it’s draining” that she still has to explain "these situations" because people "don’t believe they happen," citing events like this week's run-ins with police that turn violent. 

She ended with a message of action: "We have to move forward and focus on rebuilding the trust between the community and law enforcement." 

Later, after an interview with NYPD Detective Tom Verni in which he shied away from giving a reason why black men are disproportionately targeted by police, Instagram star Sam White spoke out, saying that a major problem is that there is a "hesitancy to call murder 'murder.'" 

On the phone, Killer Mike discouraged people from answering violence with violence. Instead he suggested that the black community should support black banks who can invest money back into the community. 

Talib Kweli joined the town hall to share his thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement, which is "firmly rooted in the tradition of Martin Luther King and peaceful protest." These movements have to be supported, he argued, because peaceful protest is the solution to violence. "When we say 'Black Lives Matter' and people say 'All Lives Matter,' it's a way to erase the pain of black people and people of color." 

Actor Penn Badgley attended the town hall "kind of in learning mode," and intended to largely listen to the problem that is "centuries old." He and Hill spoke about white privilege, the Black Lives Matter movement and how tough it is for certain people to take on a feeling of "guilt" in a "larger social arena." 

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