Historically the federal government has been the resource African-Americans could appeal to when rights were being violated and now, more than ever, their assistance is needed to put an end to a dehumanizing trend of racial profiling and police misconduct.
The brains behind the grassroots effort to convene a massive amount of people last Saturday in front of the largest and busiest trial court in New Jersey for a march and rally against police brutality, racial injustice and economic inequality now anticipate, due to the ambiguous death of Ms. Sandra Bland and the release of a video showing her illegal arrest, an even larger crowd than expected to demand federal intervention to mitigate police brutality and misconduct in America.
Mr. Walter Hudson, an activist who has been investigating the death of Mr. Phillip White, which began in Bridgeton, New Jersey with a traffic stop that was caught on video, and who is a co-organizer of Saturday’s Millions People’s March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice and Economic Inequality, said historically the federal government has been the resource African-Americans could appeal to when rights were being violated and now, more than ever, their assistance is needed to put an end to a dehumanizing trend of racial profiling and police misconduct.
“The feds have intervened with LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and now we need them to address our rights,” he said, implying that the upcoming large-scale gathering will descend on a New Jersey federal building as both symbolism and a resounding message that local officials, for the most part, have been minimized in the big picture of obtaining a solution to a problem that, though existed for generations, has, over of the last two years, captured and retained the attention of Americans from all races.
A federal intervention which can be enacted immediately is the End Racial Profiling Act, suggested Mr. Lawrence Hamm, whose nonprofit group, People’s Organization for Progress, was the lead agency executing logistics for Saturday’s direct action.
The Racial Profiling Act was originally introduced in 2001, Mr. Hamm said, but then the World Trade Centers were attacked and racial profiling became a tool in the fight to combat terrorism.
That particular legislation, which Mr. Hamm said would’ve made racial profiling a criminal act, along with others drafted by various officials from around the country, should be bundled in an omnibus bill and voted on.
In April of 2015, Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), weary from the avalanche of stories detailing police killing and misconduct, reintroduced the End Racial Profiling Act, along with a companion in the Senate authored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).
A statement released by the congressman read in part:
“The killing of Walter Scott – arising from a traffic stop – along with the deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Sean Bell, Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant and many more highlight the fact that racial profiling remains a divisive issue in communities across our nation. We know a majority of police officers perform their duties professionally– but several recent incidents of police-involved violence have severely damaged the ties between community and law enforcement to the degree that federal action is needed to being addressing the core issue. This is a systemic issue plaguing men of color in America, stigmatizing them from youth throughout adulthood. The bill introduced by Sen. Cardin and I would make for the first time, use of racial profiling a federal offense. By ending use of racial profiling in police tactics and prioritizing community relations, we can cultivate community focused; smart policing that rebuilds trust in law enforcement.”
Another federal legislation offered up by Mr. Hamm is mandating local police departments to keep pristine records of fatal officer-involved shootings and tying compliance to federal aid.
In theory, that idea has the support of Reverend Mark Tyler, who pastors the historic Mother Bethel A.M.E Church in Philadelphia and who last Sunday after his morning service facilitated a vigil and rally for Ms. Bland, who was also of the A.M.E denomination.
“What is it that motivates America to change? It’s money,” he said.
An even more immediate intervention, says Rev. Tyler, is requiring an independent investigation whenever there’s a fatal officer-involved shooting.
“In most cases,” he said, “by the time someone gets on scene that’s truly independent, the evidence has been tampered with or destroyed.”
To emphasize his point, Rev. Tyler directed his words to the case of Mr. Brandon Tate-Brown, a 26 year-old North Philadelphia man who was shot in the back of the head by a Philadelphia police officer after a “routine” traffic stop in December of 2014.
In that case, police officials invited a small group of clergy—Reverend Tyler turned down the invitation—to view the unreleased footage of the shooting. But months later, it was revealed those invited only saw what the powers-that-be wanted them to see, not the footage which showed the police in the wrong.
It was later revealed that the official reason Mr. Tate-Brown was killed, which was that he was reaching for a gun, was incorrect, though officials have refused to re-open the investigation or arraign Mr. Nicholas Carreli, the shooter, on any charges.
A relative of Mr. Tate Brown, Mr. Asa Khalif, an activist who was at Saturday’s march and rally, said he wants to see a federal law enacted which would provide mandatory minimum sentences for cops who are found guilty of murder.
Rev. Tyler said, “it’s not like there’s no legal precedent” for many of the proposed ideas, citing the 1965 Voting Rights Act as a grand moment of righteous federal intervention.
“It has to be a commitment, above all, to change the culture. At some point, said Rev. Tyler, “cops need to do the right thing. And if the government wants to make things right, they have to stop protecting bad cops; there must be tangible consequences for their misconduct.”
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