“The women will come to Washington to advocate for changing existing laws that provide legal loopholes that allow police to kill their children with impunity.”
With Washington reeling from the spontaneous uprisings against police terror that continue nationwide, the Obama administration announced the formation of a commission to investigate police terror against African-American communities and especially its men and boys. Not since the 1960’s civil rights movement has the country experienced a popular uprising that cuts across this broad a spectrum of American society’s racial and generational barriers. Only two years shy of leaving Washington, the Obama Administration has finally moved to address the most fundamental social and political crises beleaguering the African-American community: police brutality and mass incarceration.
Yet the president’s choice of former DC police chief, Charles Ramsey – “known for leading repeated bloody and abusive crackdowns on protesters when he was Washington, D.C.’s chief a decade ago, according to a civil rights attorney who won millions in damages for 100s of citizens attacked by D.C. police” – as his choice of to head the commission is shocking. Ramsey is the unintended – but perfect – symbol for just how tone deaf and removed from reality the administration is.
Lead by cheerleader-in-chief, Rev. Al Sharpton, the administration was forced to quickly convene a roundtable of hand chosen “representatives” after a Staten Island grand jury did not bring an indictment against the white police officer who strangled unarmed black Eric Garner to death. The Staten Island decision came exactly one week after a similar grand jury procedure and finding in Ferguson, Missouri, of no indictment against white police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, in August. That decision sparked protests in over 170 cities nationwide.
With the White House in chaos, Attorney General Eric Holder was dispatched Monday, December 1, to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta—the symbolic “desk” of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—to quell growing dissent and to prepare the masses for the inevitable decision by the DOJ not to seek civil rights indictments of Ferguson police officer/slave patroller Darren Wilson, the murderer of Michael Brown or New York police officer/slave patroller David Pantaleo for the death of Eric Garner.
“The Coalition is committed to sustained actions around the DOJ and its leaders until indictments are rendered.”
The lofty symbolism of Ebenezer Baptist Church—at such a moment of racial crisis—was lost on the Administration. But neither Mr. Holder nor the White House could have predicted that the ordinarily sedate audience at Ebenezer would erupt chanting, “Hands-Up Don’t Shoot!” and “We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Chains!” The protestors forced Mr. Holder to halt his bland litany of Obama’s accomplishments. After making their dramatic point the activists peacefully left the church to the applause of many who had come to hear the Attorney General.
Activists in the Washington, D.C. area under the umbrella of #DC Ferguson.com and led by Kymone Freeman, Program Director, We Act Radio; Eugene Puryear, a recent candidate for the Washington, DC Council At-Large seat active anti-war and social justice organizer; Salim Adofo, National Vice Chairperson, National Black United Front and Kenny Nero, Howard University librarian, activist and organizer have mobilized thousands of young people to march, rally and occupy commercial areas of the capitol.
The www.HandsUpCoalitionDC.com has organized weekly demonstrations in front of the Department of Justice demanding immediate indictments of police officers/slave patrollers involved in the deaths of unarmed African-American boys and men. This week’s action will feature nine African-American women who have lost family, loved ones and sons to excessive police violence. These grieving women will grace our capitol from December 9-11, (December 10 coinciding with International Human Rights Day) with their personal stories of courage and resilience in the face of police executions of their boys and men while the US government looked away. The Coalition is committed to sustained actions around the DOJ and its leaders until indictments are rendered.
Ella Baker, founder of the Student Non-violent Student Coordinating Committee (SNCC) said of the attacks against black boys and men: “Until the killing of black men, black mother’s sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of white mother’s sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.”
“Neither Mr. Holder nor the White House could have predicted that the ordinarily sedate audience at Ebenezer would erupt chanting, ‘Hands-Up Don’t Shoot!’ and ‘We Have Nothing to Lose but Our Chains!'”
The mothers, representing a cross-section of black communities from California to Baltimore, will participate in a community town hall, a vigil in front of the Department of Justice and congressional visits. At the ninth hour, the Department of Justice has agreed to an office visit between the mothers and the Office of Civil Rights. The Grieving Mothers Action is being hosted by CODEPINK, the Hands Up Coalition DC and Mothers Against Police Brutality. The women will come to Washington to advocate for changing existing laws that provide legal loopholes that allow police to kill their children with impunity. The mothers advocate effective civilian reviews of police misconduct; transparency in investigations of police officers; a comprehensive public national-level database of police shootings; and significant reforms to the 1033 program and other federal programs that equip police departments with military gear.
Despite thousands of calls and e-mails, neither President Barack Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder have agreed to meet with the mothers of these slain boys and men. While the President’s and Attorney General’s deaf ears are consistent with the choice of Charles Ramsey to lead the Commission and their misreading of the public at Ebenezer Baptist Church, it is hard to understand how the two chief law enforcement officers in the country can ignore grieving mothers of victims of the very system that has brought so much turmoil into the American street.
The Hands Up Coalition DC urges the president and attorney general to come out of their protective bubble and open their hearts and minds to the pain and message these grieving women represent. The president should withdraw the appointment of Charles Ramsey—out of respect for the damage Chief Ramsey’s style of policing has inflicted on thousands of Americans nationwide. The president should also instruct the Attorney General to drop the charges against Rasheen Aldridge, the Ferguson teenaged-activist who expressed disappointment with the process after meeting with the President in the White House.
The December Black Mothers meeting will pave the way for a larger gathering in Washington DC on Mothers Day 2015.
“Neither President Barack Obama nor Attorney General Eric Holder have agreed to meet with the mothers of these slain boys and men.”
The mothers will tell their stories and advocate for changing existing laws that leave families vulnerable to police brutality and accountability loopholes.
“I’m coming to DC for several reasons,” said Reverend Wanda Johnson, the mother of Oscar Grant, who was killed in Oakland, California on January 1, 2009. “First, I want to get the laws changed about racial profiling. Second, I want to change the law that allows the District Attorney to try the indicted officer, which I believe is a conflict of interest. Third, I want officers to have to wear body cameras. Lastly, I want officers to be trained not to shoot to kill.”
“Our politicians have been epic failures in protecting our families. We have laws that protect policeman, but no laws that protect our families when someone is killed,” said Colette Flanagan, the founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality who is traveling to DC from Dallas, Texas. “Our elected officials often turn a blind eye to the killing of our children, so now we are taking our grief to their doorstep in Washington DC. They need to understand that our families are real, and that our sons—who were taken away from us so unjustly–– matter.”
Valerie Bell is the mother of Sean Bell, a 23-year-old unarmed man killed on his wedding day, November 25, 2006, in a barrage of 50 shots fired into his car by New York plainclothes police officers. The officers thought his friend had a gun. The detectives involved in the shooting were eventually acquitted. Valerie Bell is the founder of Mothers of Never Again (MONA), and after 8 years she has finally recorded her thoughts in a book coming out in 2015 called Just 23 (Thoughts from a mother in spoken word by Kisha Walker).
Jeralynn Blueford from Oakland, California started the Justice4AlanBlueford Coalition on May 6,2012 after her 18 year-old son Alan Blueford was shot and killed by a police officer in East Oakland. From there The Alan Blueford Center 4 Justice was established in Oakland, California, as a place to help heal the community. They offer our resources to help restore the community as they struggle against police brutality. She also organized Helping Heart 2 Heal, a conference to inspire, empower, and restore healing for mothers that are suffering with the pain of losing their children and loved ones.
Darlene Cain is a mother from from Baltimore, Maryland. On October 28, 2008, her 29-year-old son Dale Graham was killed by a Baltimore City police officer. Since then she has been dedicated to lifting the voices of those who have had a family member killed by the police but were never given true justice and closure. She is is President and founder of Mothers on the Move.
Danette Chavis, from New York City, lost her 19-year-old son in October 2004. After being shot in a gunfire exchange (not with police), Gregory Chavis died just a block from Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx when police prevented him from receiving any medical treatment. Chavis has been active at demonstrations and is the head of National Action Against Police Brutality. She has launched a petition, now with over 18,430 signatures, that demands national action against police brutality and murder, for all families that have been brutalized and lost loved ones at the hands of the police.
Collette Flanagan, from Dallas, Texas, lost her only son when he was 25 years old on March 10, 2013. Clinton Allen was unarmed and shot 7 times by a Dallas policeman (once in the back), who has since been on administrative leave from the police force, without a gun or badge. Flanagan is founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, which lobbies for change in police enforcement practices and accountability measures.
Marcella Holloman’s son Maurice Donald Johnson was murdered by Baltimore police on May 19, 2012. She called an ambulance when her mentally ill son began to exhibit erratic behavior at a children’s gathering. Since Johnson’s episodic illness was registered in the police data base, Holloman expected they would take him to the hospital for treatment. Instead of waiting for an ambulance, the two responding officers entered Holloman’s home where Johnson was sequestered and shot him three times. Since then, his mother has been active and outspoken against police brutality.
Wanda Johnson’s son Oscar Grant was shot in the back and killed by transit Police Officer Johannes Mehserle at a train station in Oakland, California on January 1, 2009. Initially charged with second-degree murder, Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Since the death of her son, Johnson has been active on the Board of Directors of the Oscar Grant Foundation, a resource for at-risk youth of all races who wish to turn their lives around in a positive way. A gospel minister and nation speaker, Johnson has made guest appearances on nationally syndicated television programs, universities and public forums to bring attention to injustices in law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
Constance Malcolm is the mother of Ramarley Graham, who was 18 years old in 2012 when a New York police officer shot and killed him in his own home. Graham was suspected of carrying a gun in public, but no gun was found on him, in the bathroom he was shot in, or anywhere else in the house. Graham’s 6-year-old brother and his grandmother witnessed the shooting. Constance Malcolm has since been a vocal advocate against police brutality and has been seeking justice for her son.
Tressa Sherrod is the mother of John Crawford III, a 22 year old who was shot and killed on August 5, 2014 by police in a Walmart in Ohio. A caller phoned police, accusing Crawford of brandishing a gun, when it was really an unloaded BB air rifle on a shelf, an item that is sold in the store. Surveillance footage shows major discrepancies between a 911 caller’s account and what really happened. An Ohio grand jury decided not to indict the officer who was responsible for Crawford’s death, and since then his mother has been pursuing justice.
The delegation is endorsed by the No Fear Coalition, Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Lawyers Guild, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Popular Resistance, World Beyond War, CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, DC Campaign Against Police Abuse, UltraViolet and Defending Dissent.
Code Black Alert: Cleveland, Ohio
More than a hundred people packed a church in Cleveland, Ohio, for the memorial service of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African-American boy shot dead by police last month. Rice, who was in sixth grade, was killed after a 911 caller reported seeing the boy with what turned out to be a pellet gun, which the caller repeatedly said seemed fake. Video shows Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann fatally shooting Rice immediately after leaving his cruiser, from a distance of about 10 feet.
Code Black Alert: Brooklyn, New York
In mourning for 28 year-old Akai Gurley, shot by police in New York stairwell. Two police officers prepared to enter the pitch-black eighth-floor stairwell of a building in a Brooklyn housing project, one of them with his sidearm drawn. At the same time, Gurley and his girlfriend, frustrated by a long wait for an elevator, entered the seventh-floor stairwell, 14 steps below. In the darkness, a shot rang out from the officer’s gun, and the young man below was struck in the chest and, soon after, fell dead.
Code Black Alert: Phoenix, Arizona
Rumain Brisbon, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed by a white police officer in Phoenix, Arizona, Tuesday night. In a string of cases involving unarmed black men dying at the hands of officers over the last several months, another incident hits news.
According to a report published by USA Today, an officer in Phoenix says he felt threatened by 34-year-old Rumain Brisbon, so he used lethal force. The encounter led to Brisbon being shot twice and dying from his gunshot wounds at a north Phoenix apartment complex.
Black Code Alert: Whistleblower
Senior officials at the Social Security Administration (SSA) tried to hide a damning report on a $300 million computer system that lawmakers have called a “boondoggle” in order to protect President Obama’s nominee to lead the agency, a whistleblower claimed in an interview with FoxNews.com.
Not everyone can pay for the news. But if you can, we need your support.
Truthout is widely read among people with lower incomes and among young people who are mired in debt. Our site is read at public libraries, among people without internet access of their own. People print out our articles and send them to family members in prison — we receive letters from behind bars regularly thanking us for our coverage. Our stories are emailed and shared around communities, sparking grassroots mobilization.
We’re committed to keeping all Truthout articles free and available to the public. But in order to do that, we need those who can afford to contribute to our work to do so — especially now, because we have just 2 days left to raise $33,000 in critical funds.
We’ll never require you to give, but we can ask you from the bottom of our hearts: Will you donate what you can, so we can continue providing journalism in the service of justice and truth?