Members of the Farmers’ Market Advisory Council sit with members of the public and vendors at an Aug. 19 meeting that followed a two-week suspension of the market over safety concerns. (Emily Ernsberger / Herald-Times)
Members of the Farmers’ Market Advisory Council sit with members of the public and vendors at an Aug. 19 meeting that followed a two-week suspension of the market over safety concerns. (Emily Ernsberger / Herald-Times)
A conflict consultation and mediation group has suggested the city of Bloomington form a task force to handle race-related issues.

The Divided Community Project’s Bridge Initiative, operating out of The Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law, has been working with the city of Bloomington since August, working through October to mediate and conduct conversations and receive comments regarding a white supremacist presence at the Bloomington Community Farmers' Market. Their findings were published in a report posted Monday afternoon.

The Bridge Initiative is a conflict consultation project, which aims to bring solutions to local governments and agencies that have conflicts based on hate incidents and crimes. Part of these processes include facilitating conversations, mediating conflicts, training and making referrals to other groups and organizations that may be helpful to a local government’s issues, according to the project’s website.

“We sincerely appreciate the Bridge Initiative offering their services to our community,” Mayor John Hamilton said in a news release sent Monday afternoon. “Their contribution complements the good work that so many local individuals and groups have been doing for years toward social justice, including Bloomington United, the NAACP, the Community Justice & Mediation Center, our many faith-based and student groups, and myriad nonprofits. The Bridge Initiative’s report reflects that we are not exempt from our nation’s painful history nor from ongoing divisive forces, but also affirms Bloomington’s real and valuable reservoirs of caring and commitment to progress.”

William A. Johnson, an experienced mediator who previously served three terms as the mayor of Rochester, New York, and served for over two decades as the president and CEO of the Urban League of Rochester, led the local research over three trips to Bloomington in August and October. According to the report, Johnson met with city employees, community leaders and people he identified as non-traditional leaders. These people were considered “conscientious people with good ideas who may not usually be included at the tables where important decisions are made” and do not hold official titles or represent major institutions.

Those who took place in these conversations include nine city officials — including the mayor and chief of police — and 37 local leaders, which included people connected to Jewish and Christian religious institutions, organizations advocating for African Americans, the Latinx community and immigrants, vendors at the market and the Community Justice & Mediation Center. A survey was also posted on the city’s website, which received 40 respondents.
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