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Why Are Our Sons Gunned Down? Parents of Black Victims of Police Killings Lead DC March

The families of slain African Americans led a rally and march on the White House.

Tens of thousands marched across the country on Saturday in the largest day of protest since the killing of Michael Brown set off a national movement four months ago. From Oakland to New York City, protesters called for indictments in the case of police officers who have killed unarmed African Americans and broader reforms to policing and criminal justice. In Washington, D.C., the families of slain African Americans led a rally and march on the White House. More than 10,000 people took part. We hear from Michael Brown Sr. and Lesley McSpadden, the parents of Michael Brown; Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner; Samaria Rice, the mother Tamir Rice; John Crawford Jr., the father of John Crawford III; Kimberly Ballinger, the partner of Akai Gurley; and Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of Amadou Diallo.


AMY GOODMAN: Tens of thousands marched across the country Saturday in the largest day of protest since the killing of Michael Brown set off a national movement four months ago. From Oakland, California, to New York City, protesters called for indictments in the cases of police officers who have killed unarmed African Americans and broader reforms to policing and criminal justice.

In Washington, D.C., the families of slain African Americans led a rally and march on the White House. More than 10,000 people took part. The Reverend Al Sharpton introduced the family members.

REV. AL SHARPTON: Let us hear first Michael Brown and Lesley McSpadden.

MICHAEL BROWN SR.: How are y’all doing? All the way from St. Louis, the Brown family love y’all. All respect. Man, y’all kept this alive, for all the families. We love y’all. We really do. We love y’all so much.

REV. AL SHARPTON: The mother of Michal Brown Jr., Sister Lesley McSpadden.

LESLEY McSPADDEN: Hey, Washington. Thank you. Wow, what a sea of people. If they don’t see this and make a change, then I don’t know what we’ve got to do.

REV. AL SHARPTON: The mother of Eric Garner, Ms. Gwen Carr.

GWEN CARR: Good afternoon, everyone. It’s just so overwhelming to see all of you who have come to stand with us today. I mean, look at the masses—black, white, all races, all religions. This is just a great moment. This is a history-making moment. And, you know, we need to stand like this at all times. And, you know, our sons, you know, they may not be here in body, but they’re here with us in each and every one of you. You all brought them here today, OK? And I thank you, I thank you so much, because without you, we would have an empty podium, OK? But we just love y’all so much. And like Reverend Al said, we will come here as many times as it takes. We will come here over and over and over again. But the next time we come, we don’t want to come—you know, when we come, we want to come for a celebration, not an assassination. OK?

REV. AL SHARPTON: The mother of Tamir Rice, who has come from Cleveland, just yesterday the autopsy released, but with her hard pain, she wanted to stand with the people today. Give a big hand.

SAMARIA RICE: My son was 12 years old, just a baby—a baby, my baby, the youngest out of four. And he is here with me right now, and this is what he would want me to do. I want to thank the nation and the world for the support, because that’s the only way I’m standing up right now. That’s the only way. May God bless this nation, all the families. We share the same pain, all the mothers across the world that got shootings and police shootings for their sons. Hands up, don’t shoot. I can’t breathe! Please don’t shoot, I want to grow up, too. Thank you.

REV. AL SHARPTON: Give Sister Rice a hand. The family of John Crawford, the father who lost his son, a toy gun in Ohio.

JOHN CRAWFORD JR.: Hello. My name is John H. Crawford Jr. I’m the father of the slain John H. Crawford III, who on August 5th was murdered in the biggest retail store in the entire world. That’d be Wal-Mart. Let me say the name loudly for you: Wal-Mart!—where most of America spends their money, at one time including myself, but that is no more.

I’m here today to support the rest of these families in this wall of shame. I’m here today to let everyone know that my son’s name, along with the rest of these families, will be vindicated. I worked under this system off and on for almost 20 years, under the criminal justice umbrella. And never before have I been so ashamed, that the same system that I carry out my duties is the same system that I’m receiving injustice for, the same system that we all are receiving injustice for.

I would like to let everyone know to please stay focused. Don’t forget the name John Crawford III. Don’t forget Wal-Mart. Associate the name with the place. He wasn’t killed at a department store. He wasn’t killed on the street. He was killed in the biggest retailer in the world. And we didn’t get even one condolence. Wal-Mart was under no prohibitions whatsoever to not release the footage when he was murdered. But did they do so? Absolutely not. Did we get a “I’m sorry, our deepest condolences”? Absolutely not. Shame on you. Shame on you, Wal-Mart. Shame on the Walton family.

But I tell you, please to stay focused of what’s going on, really. What’s going on is simply, we have prosecutors who are not prosecuting. We have prosecutors who are not prosecuting. These cases, most of which, behind me, are what we call “close me” cases—they’re open and shut. These cases shouldn’t even make it to the federal level. Let’s just be frank about it.

REV. AL SHARPTON: Just under a month ago in a public housing in Brooklyn, New York, the Pink Houses, a young man was killed named Gurley. We, in National Action Network, responded to his partner. He has a two-year-old child that she will have to explain what happened to their daddy. They are trying to get all kind of disputes going. But she said, “I don’t care about disputes. I want justice for my baby and justice for my partner, who I beared this child with.” She rode down here with this baby to stand up in the nation’s capital for him. Give them a hand, as this family comes. Kimberly.

KIMBERLY BALLINGER: I thank everyone for the support. We really appreciate it. Akai was killed by a police officer for no reason, walking down the stairs on his way home. All I really need right now is justice. How do I explain to his two-year-old that daddy’s not coming home? So, as we yell “Justice for Akai Gurley,” I’m also yelling “Justice for Akaila Gurley,” as well. Thank y’all for the support.

REV. AL SHARPTON: 1999, young man shot, 41 bullets, in the Bronx, New York. His mother came and stood for him. She’s still standing for him and others, the mother of Amadou Diallo, Madam Kadiatou Diallo.

KADIATOU DIALLO: Why are we here today? Let me tell you something. As the mother of Amadou Diallo, I know. In 2000, when the four white officers were acquitted of killing my son of all charges, I thought the world was ending. We had then a conversation that we began in this country. I want to lift this one up and show the world: Amadou Diallo on the cover of the Time magazine. What did we say then? We said, “Cops, brutality and race.” And today, 16 years later, we are standing still and demanding the same thing. Just think about that for a moment. Think about all these young children who were taken away from us. Put a face, humanity, behind the headlines.

My son’s wallet looked like a gun. When Sean Bell went out to celebrate the best time of his life, for his wedding, he looked suspicious. I thought 41 bullets that was shot at my son was so much. But with Sean Bell, 50 bullets. I went to the hospital to see the survivors of that brutality and violence from police guns. I went and saw them in the hospital. They have chain on the bed. They have handcuffs. And I cried. Nobody can imagine the trauma that did for me, because I was seeing this young man, for no reason, being gunned down and came out of it. My son never lived through that. He didn’t stand a chance.

I’m here today to support the Eric Garner family, Michael Brown family, Tamir Rice family, and the young man who was killed in Brooklyn. You know, in the end, we all have to ask the same question: Why our sons look suspicious? And why each time our sons being gunned down, they were stereotyped and portrayed? Why? Lesley’s son supposed to go to college, but in the news you see something else. Trayvon Martin went out to get something to drink, but in the news it’s something else. Time and time again, we are going through the same history. I relive my tragedy every time.

But I tell you, as long as I have bones in my body, I will not fail Amadou. I will not fail my son. I promised him that I’m going to stand for him, to speak for him, because he’s the longer there to speak for himself. This solidarity of sisters, we, the moms, we don’t want to belong to this group. We pay a heavy price to be here. Many people understand. Whenever we see people in the neighborhood, they touch us and hug us. That gives us comfort.

Gwen Carr, I’m sorry that Eric Garner was killed, and they tell you that the officers who were responsible will not be put to trial. I am so sorry for that. Michael Brown, Lesley, I’m sorry that it has to end like this. But this is not the end, because of the sea of people who stood up, said this: “We need justice.” We cannot close the book. We have to carry on ’til justice for all, equal justice for all the victims, despite where you’re coming from, whether it is Hawa Bah or Sybrina Fulton or Sean Bell’s mom or Lesley or Gwen Carr. We are all here, and Iris Baez. I love you all. Please don’t forget us. Don’t forget that our sons die so that we can open up the book and review what is happening, so that we can open up conversation around the nation, so that we can start building communities, building community relations. And then finally, when that happens, when we have strong laws, when we have good cops policing our neighborhood, then we can heal, because we want to heal. We need healing, America. Thank you. God bless you.

AMY GOODMAN: Kadiatou Diallo, the mother of Amadou Diallo. He died February 4th, 1999, in a hail of 41 police bullets as he put the key in his door, coming home from work in Bronx, New York. Kadiatou Diallo spoken in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. And there was a slight interruption in the rally.

REV. AL SHARPTON: Next, we have Ms. Barbara Arnwine—

ERIKA TOTTEN: We have our Ferguson people, too.

REV. AL SHARPTON: Ms. Barbara Arnwine, president of the Lawyers’ Committee.

ERIKA TOTTEN: We love our sister Barbara, but what I have here is Ferguson people that want to speak, and we need to let them speak. We need to let them speak! Let them speak! Let them speak!

CROWD: Let them speak! Let them speak! Let them speak! Let them speak! Let them speak! Let them speak! Let them speak! Let them speak!

AMY GOODMAN: Later in the rally, a young woman from Ferguson was brought up to speak. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, the Millions March in New York. Tens of thousands marched here in New York City, as well. Stay with us.

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