On Aug. 19 a coalition of civil rights leaders and groups issued recommendations to address the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and to prevent future use of excessive force by law enforcement against unarmed African Americans. Brown, 18, was unarmed when he was shot and killed Aug. 9 by Darren Wilson, a White officer in the Ferguson Police Department.
His death is part of a broader problem, the leaders said. “The death of Michael Brown is a pattern. He is the end of a long trail of abuses,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. during a press call with reporters.
“He is Trayvon [Martin]. He is Amadou Diallo. He is Abner Louima. He is Eric Garner. He is Ezell Ford,” Jackson added, citing a list of Black men and teens who have been the victims of extrajudicial violence.
“The shooting and killing of Michael Brown is a grim reminder that there are two kinds of policing in America today: One for White communities, aimed at serving and protecting them, and one for communities of color, devised to criminalize and control them,” added Jennifer Bellamy, of the American Civil Liberties Union. “To serve and protect is not a suggestion, it is a mandate that law enforcement must apply equally to all communities, otherwise, there will be more Fergusons.”
Since Brown’s shooting and the days of violence and pandemonium that have engulfed the majority-Black city, the civil rights leaders said they have been working on the ground, trying to moderate the militarized policing of the protests, litigating and taking other steps to achieve transparency in the police investigation, and liaising with the Department of Justice and Gov. Jay Nixon to effect fair and just resolutions.
“What we are seeing in Ferguson, Missouri, in terms of the uprising, is that many young people of color feel that their communities have become Constitution-free zones, where young Blacks can be arrested for nothing or shot down in the streets with impunity as was Michael Brown and many young Blacks every day of the year,” said the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president of the Hip Hop Caucus. He added, “Black lives and Black communities deserve respect . . . We don’t want justice in part; we want justice in whole. That is truly what will make our country a better country.”
The list of recommendations is one step toward that goal, the coalition said.
“We are here today to discuss long-term efforts that must occur in order to stop this cycle of violence against people of color, particularly our youth, across this country,” said Barbara Arnwine, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We are [firm] in our belief that a national movement must take place to focus this nation on the mass killings of people of color. This means we are prepared for a long-term battle to implement the recommended actions.”
Those suggested actions were varied and include an thorough independent investigation of Brown’s death and all other police killings by the Department of Justice, the establishment of national standards on the use of force, comprehensive federal review and reporting of excessive use of force generally against minorities and of racially disproportionate policing, universal use of cameras in police cars and on officers’ bodies, and community-based policing.
“We firmly believe that if these recommendations are implemented they would have a profound effect upon reducing violence and restoring confidence in law enforcement by communities of color,” Arnwine said.
To see the full list of recommendations, click here.