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Activists spark change at Hamden town council meeting

HAMDEN — After weeks of protests all over the state, activists got to see some change at the Hamden legislative council meeting Monday night.

Since a Hamden police officer fired his weapon at an unarmed couple in a car in New Haven last month, activists have been seeking justice for the man and woman — Paul Witherspoon and Stephanie Washington. On Monday night, activists spoke to the council, asking them to amend their resolution, which challenges community and police relations.

Activists wanted the council to add Jarelle Gibbs to the language. The 24-year-old died back in August after the car he was a passenger in crashed into a tree during a police chase in New Haven. Council members took a recess to discuss changes to the resolution.

“If we turn out and if we make demands of our local government, and we consistently do that, there will be change,” said Kerry Ellington, an activist who has been leading many protests.

“We’re here to listen,” said Mick McGarry, council president. “We’ve been listening a lot. We’re listening now. So we’re making changes in real time. It’s a working document.”

After a 15-minute recess, council members changed the language of their resolution, adding Jarelle Gibbs’s name to the language, and acknowledging his death as something that demands an independent third-party review.

While many activists said they were pleased to see some change, public comment continued for another hour as residents of Hamden and surrounding communities demanded more from the council.

Protesters say they plan to continue speaking out until all of their demands are met, including the termination of the Hamden police officer who fired his weapon in April.

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