Post Classifieds

Failure to indict not derailing Movement for justice

By Jazelle Hunt/NNPA Washington Correspondent
On December 15, 2014

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – The failure of a St. Louis County grand jury to indict Ferguson, Missouri, Police Officer Darren Wilson of the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown will not halt the movement for police accountability, key activists say. 

A mass meeting was held earlier this month at a church in Ferguson to define and chart a course toward these broader goals. But the overall goal is already outlined in an open letter supported by “numerous” unnamed citizens, but bearing the sole signature of DeRay McKesson, one of the more prominent protesters in Ferguson.

The letter reads: “So you will likely ask yourself, now that the announcement has been made, why we will still take to the streets? … Until this system is dismantled, until the status quo that deems us less valuable than others is no longer acceptable or profitable, we will struggle. We will fight. We will protest.”

In August, McKesson helped create a daily Ferguson newsletter, and a website that lists nine demands. The evolving list currently includes “political accountability” for Brown’s death; the creation of an assessment tool to gauge racial bias within police departments; and an end to “provocative police behaviors” that suppress First Amendment rights. 

No timeline has been placed on agitating for these demands. There is also little sign that Missouri authorities are interested in considering them.

Faith leaders plan to continue using their unique positions in society to advocate for peaceful solutions. The Rev. Cassandra Gould, for example, has been active in Ferguson since August and was in front of the Ferguson Police Department with protesters and Brown’s family when the grand jury decision was announced.

Gould, who serves as pastor of Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church in Jefferson City, Missouri, spent the rest of that night tending to tired and tear-gassed demonstrators at a few church-based sanctuaries around town. Despite a deal between clergy and police to leave the sanctuaries undisturbed, she says, police raided several, confiscating supplies and dispersing those inside.

“I’ve spent my life in St. Louis. I don’t remember much about the Civil Rights Movement … my mom marched to Selma. I thought that was part of a historical narrative, and I never thought I would see anything close to it,” she said. 

Human rights activists are also documenting militarized police responses around the country to build a human rights violation case against the United States. The Ferguson to Geneva delegation, which presented testimony to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Switzerland last month, has invited United Nations investigators (called Special Rapporteurs) to launch their own investigations into the matter.

The investigators are akin to the Justice Department lawyers who monitored civil rights marches and voter registration in the South in the 1960s. The delegation is funneling their eyewitness accounts to the rapporteurs to encourage United Nations involvement.

“One [rapporteur] wrote us a long letter talking about how he has sympathy for us. Another one, we have a meeting with him in New York in early December,” said Justin Hansford, human rights law professor at Saint Louis University and lead organizer for Ferguson to Geneva. “We have countries around the world speaking out about Ferguson. We tried the local level, the state, and federal government. We have to take this to the court of global opinion now.”

Jagannath added, “Michael Brown’s killing really catalyzed a movement to change how police interact with people, especially people of color. Moving forward, people are not looking at this thing like let’s switch out the police chief or let’s switch out the governor. People are not naïve, they know that the structure is the problem.”

While the state of Missouri will not indict Darren Wilson for any crime in connection to the shooting, Gov. Jay Nixon has created an independent 16-member commission to study the “underlying social and economic conditions” fueling the community’s response. The committee is scheduled to release its findings next year.

The U.S. Department of Justice has two investigations underway, one into whether Wilson violated Brown’s civil rights and a second one into the larger practices of the Ferguson Police Department. Brown’s parents are also considering bringing a civil action against Wilson.

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