From the November-December 2014 issue of News & Letters
Memphis, Tenn.—I went to St. Louis with members of Memphis United, the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, and Fast Food Workers for the national demonstrations Oct. 11-12 over police violence, including the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. One of us lost her uncle to police violence. He had called the police to get help with crime in his neighborhood. However, he was killed by the police. This spearheaded the formation of the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board in Memphis.
I am stoked about the young people in St. Louis leading the fight for justice. What is going on is evil, and our prayers and actions must be consistent to support these youth on the front line. The police have no business in riot gear antagonizing people exercising their constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate. The youth are fighting for us all, so find your way to support them in Ferguson as well as people working locally on police accountability.
Back in Memphis on Oct. 22 we held a Stolen Lives flash demo. I was emotional as I looked at the names of people killed extrajudicially. People who experience police brutality sometimes don’t live to talk about it, and the ones who do have such mistrust that they sometimes don’t even report the offending officers.
A Memphis United member spoke of how his friend was killed by an officer who also killed two other people. He said, “None of the accused crimes would have been punishable by death.”
That gave me chills and made me think about how racism and classism have tainted law enforcement. We have to advocate for tools of accountability to un-tilt the imbalance of power.
On Oct. 22 we joined 89 actions in 72 locations around the U.S. for this year’s National Day of Protest. There was a national call to end police brutality and their use of deadly force. We are expecting accountability for law enforcement to be implemented: a more effective Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board; a complaint process free from intimidation and bias; dash and lapel cameras; a less militarized police force with more community policing; an end of racial profiling and the use of deadly or excessive force.
We held die-ins for four and a half minutes at six locations. Michael Brown lay outside for four and a half hours and was shot six times. Names of people who died from deadly force were commemorated on sheets.
We are also concerned that many are getting rich off of imprisoned young Black men and women. Prisons are not designed for rehabilitation. Prisoners are being paid 15 to 17 cents an hour and are expected to pay for services, while big corporations make huge profits from prison labor.