LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked a national movement and demands for justice over the summer.
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Kerman Maddox said Floyd’s death, and the subsequent movement for police accountability, also changed the way people were interacting with one another.
“I noticed there seemed to be a lot of tension here in Southern California right after the George Floyd Killing,” he said.
Maddox, who has worked in politics and consulting, said he also noticed that people started behaving differently toward him.
“Just in my daily activities, whether I was walking the dog or going to the market or going to pick up food from a restaurant, people that I would normally interact with I noticed seemed to be kind of cool,” he said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, is there something about me, is there something I’ve done?'”
Maddox then came up with a simple concept to try and bridge the growing racial divide.
“If we can convince people to do something very simple, just say hello, just wave, just acknowledge people who don’t look like you, we thought there could be a connection,” he said.READ MORE: Ag Startup And Walmart Building Tech-Operated Indoor Farm In Compton
With backing from members of the Los Angeles City Council and other generous donors, Maddox launched the Just Say Hello campaign earlier this month.
“I just think there’s a moment where we’re living in such disconnected times that this simple act of saying hello really connects us,” Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, who serves as the city’s chair of public safety, said this could be another tool for police and schools to use.
“Really starting this with young people in my district, both through my youth council and working with the local elementary schools and middle schools, is going to be that way that we continue to carry that message and expand this across our city,” she said.
Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Stacy Spell, the commanding officer in the media relations division, said talks were underway on how officers could adopt the message of the Just Say Hello campaign to build a better relationship with the communities they serve.
“When we look at the after actions and the different things that resulted from the George Floyd incident, I mean, it’s been very trying for them, but also, for many of our police officers who like myself signed up and wanted to do something that was going to make a difference,” he said.
LAPD said it was still trying to come up with a plan that would work during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it be handing out masks with the message written on it or gift cards.MORE NEWS: Sheriff's Deputies Investigating Fatal Shooting In San Gabriel
More information about the Just Say Hello campaign can be found on the organization’s website.