[In May and June of 2020, a time of pandemic isolation, economic collapse, and intense partisan rivalry, videos of Minneapolis cops lynching George Floyd — a Black man with his hands cuffed behind his back — sparked nationwide mass protests against widespread police brutality and systemic racism in America. ]

NCOE Condemns Police Killings of George Floyd
and Police Violence Against Protestors

National Council of Elders 2020

We are members of the National Council of Elders, Veterans of many of the Social Justice and Peace Movements of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. These have included the Black Freedom Movement, the American Indian, Chicano, Anti-War, Immigrant Rights, Peace and LBGT Rights Movements. We are Black, Chicano, Indigenous, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay and White. We are Christian, Jewish and Muslim. We were called into being by two of the iconic Civil Rights Leaders of the past, Rev. James Lawson and Dr. Vincent Harding. Collectively we represent hundreds of years of social justice activism.

We are greatly alarmed by the brutal lynching of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday, May 25, 2020 (Memorial Day). Uncharacteristically, all four offices engaged in the murder of George Floyd have been arrested and charged. Demonstrations against the killing of yet another Black person at the hands of police has set off days of protests across the U. S and in a number of foreign cities. Some persons within what began as peaceful demonstrations have engaged in lawless acts, including, arson, destruction of property and looting. These acts have been used by numerous public officials to call out the National Guard and President Donald Trump has made threats about calling in members of the armed forces to quell the "disorder." Scenes of police beating, kicking, stomping, tasing, teargassing, using horses and automobiles to run down protestors and in some cases journalists, TV Reporters and Camera Crews have flooded the airwaves and social media. These police are showing little to no restraint and are exemplifying the very behavior that thousands of our citizens are risking their lives to protest against during this COVID-19 pandemic that has killed over 108,000 citizens, a disproportionate number of whom are Black and Brown.

The NCOE Condemns in the strongest terms the killing of George Floyd and the numerous other unarmed Black men, women and children killed over this last decade and before. The murder of George Floyd is only one of many episodes of police brutality and excessive force that have plagued our communities for decades. Every episode of police violence against people of color lays bare the unbroken links between invasion, land theft, slavery and modern racially biased policing and demonstrates the moral imperative for all law enforcement leaders and every member of our justice system to do better. The young activists exhort us to "Say Their Names!" Those most recent ones: Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Sean Bell, Aiyana Mo'Nay Stanley-Jones, Amadou Diallo, Mya Hall, Walter Scott, Deborah Danner, Joel Acevado, Atatiana Jones, Jamar Clark, Miriam Carey, Philando Castile, Tanisha Anderson, Ezell Ford, Charleena Lyles, John Crawford, Shukri Said, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor are names of Black men, women and children killed by the police, some we know so well, others, particularly the women, less so. These are just a few of the names of those killed by the open brutal violence of the State. As we know only too well, this list is growing and will continue to grow if we the American People don't demand an end to this ongoing slaughter.

The killing of Floyd and all those who have come before have often served as a catalyst for some of the most visible youth led active Movements of today: Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100) , the Movement for Black Lives, and the Dream Defenders among others. We know that police killings are symptomatic of much deeper issues negatively impacting Black, Brown and poor people in the U.S. The scholar Martha Biondi and others sum up what these communities are facing as "disposability," which encompasses structural unemployment, the school to prison pipeline, poor to no access to health care, homelessness, food insecurity but also high rates of shooting deaths as weaponry meets hopelessness in the day to day struggle for personhood and survival of these communities. It also manifests in this society's acceptance of high rates of premature deaths of Young African Americans and Latinos. [1]

For young men of color, police use of force is among the leading causes of death. Risk of being killed by the police is highest for Black men, a 1 in 1000 chance of being killed. It is important to note that Black women are also killed in record numbers, yet the killing of Black women is often overlooked in the roll call of police killings of Black people.[2] Policing plays a key role in maintaining structural inequalities between people of color and white people. Having contact with the police is a key vector of health inequality and an important cause of early mortality for people of color. Racially unequal exposure to the risk of state violence has profound consequences for public health, democracy and racial stratification.

We agree with many of our young activists who say there is a "State of Emergency Facing Black People." We are living in a time of the worst example of the culture of Violence that pervades this country. We have learned from our years of social justice organizing, what Audre Lorde stated: "The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house." We affirm that we cannot dismantle the culture of violence in which we all live with the tools of violence. We also know that a movement that stays on the defensive will never achieve its goals. Unless we direct our energy from reactive to proactive, we will be stuck on the defensive. We must develop our own strategies and timeline that allows us to build Pressure and Power.

We are committed to developing a culture of peace in our social justice organizing. We must never lose sight of our ultimate goal, building an American that never was, but can be: An America of Justice, Equal Social and Economic Rights and Dignity for All. How do we translate this commitment into concrete actions? Given the current Crisis around police killings and violence we must address this issue NOW, while understanding that police violence is a symptom of the Triple Evils identified by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Evils of Materialism, Racism and Militarism. As Black Communities and their allies continue to insist on full free speech and assembly, some police forces have become even more violent in upholding the status quo against nonviolent demonstrations. This leads us to the view that the entire concept of American policing, which has been heavily influenced by racism and other forms of subjugation, must be rethought.

There are many immediate actions proposed for changing the culture of police violence toward People of Color in this country by various activists and professional Criminal Justice Organizations. Some of these include:

Defunding Police: Using those redirected funds to finance Housing, Health Care, Good Jobs, Youth Programs, Community Care Workers, Public Transportation, Parks, Environmental Protection, Recreation Centers, Arts Programs, Playgrounds and other socially needed programs. [3]

Demilitarize Police: Police forces should be required to abandon and trash the military supplies and weapons useful only in time of war, many have acquired. Experiments should be undertaken to replace armed police with neighborhood peacekeepers.

Enhancing Accountability and Addressing Misconduct: Citizen Review Boards should be created to hold the police accountable to the community who possess powers to fire police, charge them with crimes if justified after investigation. [4]

Addressing Racially Disparate Policing and Protecting Human Life: Policing training should emphasize appropriate and inappropriate use of force and protect the dignity of human life. Stop the use of police for handling mental health crises, other medical emergencies, domestic violence issues and the use of armed police in public schools to handle disciplinary problems, among other inappropriate roles. [5]

Prosecutorial Practices: Prosecutors should not be aligned with nor accept donations from police departments and police unions. When investigating police involved incidents, these cases should not be handled by the employing law enforcement agency. [6] The police cannot police themselves.

A Reset of the Entire Criminal Justice System in the U.S. Police violence against People of Color is only one facet of the deeply entrenched racial disparities within our Criminal (In) Justice System. There is an urgent need for analysis and action on every stage of this system from arrest to sentencing. Many of our social justice colleagues are calling for the abolitions of prisons. They are also calling for an immediate End to Money Bail. The skyrocketing death rate from COVID -19 of many locked in our jails, prisons and detention centers has cast a spotlight on the deplorable conditions and violence that most incarcerated persons face. Now, many of the persons housed in these horrid conditions face a possible death sentence due to the inadequate health care, lack of hygiene, and the inability to practice social distancing in these spaces.

The NCOE seeks to join with Social Justice organizers across this country working to end police killings of People of Color, and to end the Triple Evils of Materialism, Racism and Militarism that are the foundation of all the ills plaguing the United States.

List of National Council of Elders Members

Footnotes:

1. Martha Biondi, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003

2. Two important resources have addressed this erasure of Black women victims of police violence: The Report: "SAY HER NAME: RESISTING POLICE BRUTALITY AGAINST BLACK WOMEN," by Kimberle Williams Crenshaw and Andrea J. Ritchie, issued by the African American Policy Forum. Andrea J. Ritchie, INVISIBLE NO MORE: Police Violence Against Black Women And Women of Color, Boston: Beacon Press, 2017.

3. Black Lives Matter, Los Angeles developed and are fighting for what they call, The People's Budget, LA. Over 10,000 people were engaged in drafting the budget. They are calling on the LA Mayor and City Council to invest in universal needs and divest from traditional forms of policing. They have been successful in getting Mayor Eric Garcetti & City Officials to cut $100 -$150 million from the City's 1.8 Billion Police Budget. M4BL is Demanding a cut in police budgets across the country. Minneapolis Social Justice Organizers are calling for deep cuts in their Police Budgets too. On June 7, 2020, the Minneapolis City Council Voted in a Veto Proof majority to Disband The Police Department and Invest In Proven Community-Led Public Safety.

4. Joint Statement From Elected Prosecutors On The Murder of George Floyd And Police Violence, Issued May29, 2020 by 40 U.S. Elected Prosecutors.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

Copyright © NCOE 2020

 


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