Police-community initiative to hit York City gym Saturday
Former Philadelphia Eagle Ray Sydnor will bring his Shooting 4 Peace initiative to York City this weekend in the hopes of bridging the gap between police and the community.
Sydnor, former Los Angeles Raider and Olympic bobsledder Greg Harrell and several former professional basketball players will lead city residents through a skills clinic and shoot-around from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Voni Grimes Gym, 125 E. College Ave.
Saturday’s rally is an opportunity for Shooting 4 Peace to bond with the York community and build a rapport with city residents, Sydnor said, with the goal of having a deeper, more honest conversation about the relationship between the community and police.
“This effort doesn’t work without relationships,” Sydnor said. “We want to get buy-in from the people in York. We need them to take ownership over (their community).”
Shooting 4 Peace is an anti-drug, anti-violence group looking to build bridges between police and the communities they serve.
Sydnor said he started Shooting 4 Peace about a year ago when he was approached by Baltimore’s police commissioner about the potential for riots on the one-year anniversary of Freddie Gray’s death.
Gray died in April 2015, a week after being severely injured while being transported by Baltimore police. Violent protests occurred in Baltimore following Gray’s death, while further protests were held after just one of the six officers involved in the transport was found guilty of any wrongdoing.
Leading up to the one-year anniversary, Shooting 4 Peace held rallies in “strategic hot spots,” including a one-week span where group members and professional athletes went to all 122 elementary, middle and high schools in Baltimore to speak with more than 87,000 students, Sydnor said.
With Baltimore police acting as chauffeurs for the athletes during their school visits, children were able to see that the officers have a friendly relationship with the people they looked up to, Sydnor said.
“Hey, he’s cool with Ray. Give him a chance,” Sydnor said of the students’ reaction.
The bonds established during the visits helped stave off more violent protests on the anniversary of Gray’s death, with police and community members line-dancing in the streets a block away from where Gray was first arrested, Sydnor said.
The Shooting 4 Peace initiative will return to York City on April 21 for a celebrity basketball game pitting former professional players against some of York’s local legends. At halftime, members of Shooting 4 Peace will open up a conversation about “what’s really important in life," Sydnor said.
Sports are a “great common denominator” to bring people together, as they help people look past socioeconomic and racial barriers, Sydnor said.
The two events are meant to lay the groundwork for a deeper, more honest conversation about the relationship between the community and police, Sydnor said, adding that the group has made a serious, long-term commitment to York.
Plans are in place to open a Shooting 4 Peace office in the city, and the group is looking at other programs and initiatives to help the York community, including a college scholarship fund for students, Sydnor said.