Fort Worth

Longtime Fort Worth Activist Says He Has Hope in 2020

'I'm hoping this is a turning point,' Rev. Michael Bell says

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A longtime Fort Worth activist who has led protests against racial justice for a half-century says he is encouraged by what he sees around the county, but isn't ready to declare victory yet.

"It's like being on a hamster wheel,” Rev. Michael Bell said. “We keep fighting the same battles."

Bell, 69, pastor of Greater St. Stephen Baptist Church on East Berry Street, started protesting when he was 19.

He has binders full of old newspaper clippings about past demonstrations over other police incidents.

"The images up through the years continue to just haunt me,” he said.

While Fort Worth has made changes -- including hiring a police monitor and a separate diversity and inclusion director in the past year -- there's one thing still at the top of Bell's wish list.

"I'd like to see an oversight committee,” Bell said. “That would be major progress in Fort Worth, Texas."

City council member Ann Zadeh wrote on Facebook that she supports an independent citizen’s review board, which was a key recommendation of the Race and Culture Task Force, a group formed after the controversial December 2016 arrest of Jacqueline Craig.

“There is absolutely no reason that years after the fact, we have not implemented this change,” Zadeh said.

City officials have said they plan to form a review board, but have given no timetable for doing so.

Bell said one reason he has hope for the future is that for the first time so many white people have joined the demonstrations.

"I was surprised when I saw it,” he said.

Bell said the video of what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis was so disturbing it has highlighted complaints about police brutality in a way nothing else has.

After his 50-year struggle, Bell said he isn’t ready to declare victory.

He is cautious, but optimistic.

“I'm hoping this is a turning point,” he said. “Time is a fortune teller. We will see if this will have significant and long-lasting impact."

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