On Saturday, January 15, the Beloit Brown Community Liaison will host a forum titled, “We Hear You, Now Hear Us” as a space for the families of the victims of gun violence to come forward and speak about the impact on their lives — but the police chief will not attend.
They also plan to talk about solutions to end the gun violence in Beloit.
Group founder Lexi Payton is hoping this event brings more attention to the seriousness of gun violence and the negative impact it has on her community.
“I’m hoping that somebody will hear them out and say, ‘Okay, we’re hearing what you’re telling us, let’s see what we can do to get you those answers and get you that justice,’” Payton said. “I’m hoping that through these families expressing what they have gone through, finally, we can say, this is what we need to do to come together to get you the answers that you’re looking for. And let’s see if we can work together as a community to stop the gun violence and put an end to it.”
Payton stated that this year alone, the Black and brown communities in Beloit have witnessed over 20 shootings and 5 homicides.
Payton said the goal of the Beloit Brown Community Liaison is to bridge a gap of communication between the community and police department. Payton began the group in hopes of getting answers from the police department about the murder of her cousin, Chelsey Payton, who was shot at a house party in October 2020.
The organization has contacted the Beloit Police Department and Chief Andre Sayles and have not received a response about their attendance of the community conversation.
In a text message to a Madison365 editor, City of Beloit Strategic Communications Director Sarah Lock provided the same statement provided to the Beloit Daily News last month: “The City of Beloit Police Department values the voices of those impacted by violence. We understand that many in our community are grieving due to gun violence, and we will continue to actively investigate these cases. We intend to hold community forums in multiple locations this spring that will be professionally moderated.”
Payton said neither Sayles nor any representative of the police department provided any such statement to the organization.
“It’s very, very difficult to get in touch with the Police Department,” Payton said. “We did send an email, inviting the Chief to the event. To this day, we have not heard a response back. We actually saw in the newspaper, there was an article that was done about the event. We saw in the paper that he made a statement saying that he wasn’t going to be coming. He’s not responding back to us letting us know that he won’t be there.”
Payton said Beloit is a tight-knit community, and the people there are having a hard time dealing with the toll of the violence and death rates of people they know and love.
“There’s a ton of anxiety,” she said. “I would say there’s anxiety, anger, frustration and fear, obviously fear in the community. If you asked anyone who was born and raised in Beloit, they will tell you, it has never been this bad. I’m 28 and this is not anything that I would have imagined dealing with in Beloit. Never in my life would have imagined that I would be creating a group to try and figure out how to work together to stop the violence. and try to get Beloit back to the community it was when I was younger.”
We Hear You, Now Hear Us will take from 6:00-8:00 pm at New Life International Ministries, 1400 Harvey St., Beloit, WI 53511.