Wasserman Schultz returns to public eye at community policing event
By Dan Sweeney
After keeping out of the public eye since her resignation as chair of the Democratic National Committee on July 24, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, chose to step back into the spotlight at a town hall event at the Faith Center, a nondenominational African-American church in Sunrise.
Thursday's town hall, billed as "Hope and Healing: A Community Conversation," was meant to bring law enforcement and the black community together.
As the emcee read the names of the 18 people onstage — including politicians, police and pastors — only U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, and the Faith Center's own pastor, Henry Fernandez, drew louder applause than the congresswoman.
It was a far cry from the opening day of the Democratic National Convention, when Wasserman Schultz was greeted by a chorus of boos at a breakfast for the Florida delegation. Not long thereafter, she announced she would not gavel in the convention and disappeared from any public role.
The booing came as a result of the computer hack in which DNC emails that were leaked online showed DNC staffers speaking derisively of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. To Sanders' supporters, still bitter over the Vermont senator's defeat, the emails only confirmed long-held suspicions that the DNC, under Wasserman Schultz, unfairly favored the campaign of Hillary Clinton.
But at the Faith Center, Wasserman Schultz's work in bringing together law enforcement and the black community meant a warm crowd.
Almost two years ago, Wasserman Schultz and Hastings put together the Task Force on Law Enforcement and Community Relations in an effort to improve the relationship between police and the black community in Broward County in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the subsequent unrest in that city.
"The tensions that have exploded in many communities around the country were really simmering just under the surface here," Wasserman Schultz said. "Since then, we have had our police and community relations task force meeting with young people in high schools across [Broward County]."
She recalled the first such meeting, at Dillard High School, when a girl "stood up and said that in her community when there was danger, when something was wrong, her and her friends' instinct was to run from the police, not toward the police. And that has stayed with me for all these months because nowhere in any community should young people or anyone feel like they should have to flee from the police."
When asked why she decided to make her first appearance since the Democratic National Convention at this event, Wasserman Schultz responded, "This event has been scheduled for weeks."
But Wasserman Schultz's presence at the event did not appear to be.
Faith Center spokesman Don Wiggins said the congresswoman was a late addition to the event. Broward Mayor Marty Kiar said that "my staff just told me" Wasserman Schultz would be there.
"We were always going to be there," a Wasserman Schultz spokesman said.