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Eastside community in downtown Charleston discusses crime, racial divides, gentrification

Eastside Community Meeting 9 9 (WCIV).PNG

A diverse group of Eastside residents discussed tough topics in downtown Charleston Monday night. Hot button issues included crime, gentrification and racial divides in the neighborhood. (WCIV)

A diverse group of Eastside residents discussed tough topics in downtown Charleston Monday night. Hot button issues included crime, gentrification and racial divides in the neighborhood.

At the last Eastside community meeting, tensions ran high as residents clashed over issues including crime prevention. But tonight people agree – the first step is uniting people on the eastside.

Mayor John Tecklenburg, State Senator Marlon Simpson, and Police Chief Luther Reynolds joined Eastside residents for the second in a series of community meetings.

“Based on the recent events happening on the Eastside it, becomes really time for us to try to unify this community," said Dr. Kylon Middleton, an organizer for the event.

“The last community meeting kind of prompted this meeting, it led us to see you know now is the time to have these conversations," said organizer Amber Johnson.

Organizers of Monday’s summit say it’s time to discuss issues that divide this community.

"We have lots of racial unrest, tensions that are existing, active gentrification, so now its time for us to unite the community around those issues,” Dr. Middleton says.

Amber Johnson manages the City of Charleston’s Office of Diversity, Racial Reconciliation, and Tolerance. She says the goal of the meeting is a unification. “I’ve seen that people are ready for something new. They’re ready to have those discussions. I think that talking about race has been a difficult subject to talk about."

But no topic was off the table for Eastside residents, including many who met for the first time tonight.

“One of the issues is crime, definitely. I think another is fear of each other,” says Eastside resident Alexis Singleton.

“Just integrating our neighborhood and getting to know each other well,” says resident Heril Patel.

“Finding things that are enjoyable where people can put their worries a bit aside. And then they know each other. When they know each other they are less stressed, maybe less misconceptions on both sides,” says resident Beatrice Bernis.

Although these neighbors come from diverse backgrounds, they agree communication is key to stopping crime and fear on the eastside. “I think we can come together, and all live in the same community better,” resident Alexis Singleton says.

Officials say the next step is forming a coalition of neighbors who can help prevent eastside crime.