The Mobile County Branch of the NAACP joins with our national and state officials to express our deep disappointment with the latest grand jury decision to exonerate a police officer who killed an unarmed black man in yet another blatant and senseless use of excessive force.
Yesterday’s announcement that a New York City panel of citizens declined to charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo with any crime in the chocking death of Eric Garner should be offensive to all Americans because justice denied to any citizen diminishes all citizens. The resulting protests and announcement of a federal investigation into this matter — similar to what happened last week when a St. Louis, MO., grand jury exonerated Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown — prove that many people here and abroad share this view.
Because of their great authority given under the law, police officers have a special duty to serve and protect the public. But the recent string of deaths of unarmed black and brown people at the hands of police indicates that there remains a deeply disturbing culture of indifference towards people of color when it comes to policing and the dispensation of justice in the American legal system. Fighting this particular type of injustice has been the NAACP’s continuous struggle since our founding in 1909.
Sadly, the statement that our President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, made on the NAACP’s behalf in the Ferguson grand jury decision last week applies equally to the decision in New York this week:
“The NAACP stands with citizens and communities who are deeply disappointed that the grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson for the tragic death of Michael Brown Jr. We stand committed to continue our fight against racial profiling, police brutality and the militarization of local authorities. The death of Michael Brown and actions by the Ferguson Police Department is a distressing symptom of the untested and overaggressive policing culture that has become commonplace in communities of color all across the country. We will remain steadfast in our fight to pass the End Racial Profiling federal legislation. And we stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters and uphold that their civil rights not be violated as both demonstrators and authorities observe the “rules of engagement”. The grand jury’s decision does not mean a crime was not committed in Ferguson Missouri, nor does it mean we are done fighting for Michael Brown Jr. At this difficult hour, we commend the courage and commitment of Michael Brown’s family, as well as local and national coalition partners.”
To this statement, we add the name of Eric Gardner and his family. We must work now to make sure no other names will be added to the sad litany of statements in situations like this.
It is now time to examine possible prosecutorial malfeasance, when those sworn to uphold the law choose to build cases and secure testimony that shield police misconduct from criminal accountability. We join the family of Michael Brown in asking that all police departments — including law enforcement in Mobile — order and deploy body cameras for the safety of marginalized members of our community, as well as for the safety of officers who are rightly doing their jobs. Yet, even when video clearly shows police misconduct, as in the case of Eric Garner, we must not allow the supposedly blind system of justice to close its eyes to the truths that the cameras reveal.
We call on our judicial and political leaders to make sure these extrajudicial killings of people of color by the police are investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. You must, if we claim American society is committed to justice and democracy. Otherwise, the public outcry in this city and across our country will lead to more violent acts by reactionary citizens that will only further endanger the lives of innocent neighbors and of our best law enforcement officials. And it could also ignite hate crimes by radical groups poised to use military arms in racial incidents. All of this threatens to tear the very fabric of our society. We cannot stand by and watch this happen.
The Mobile Branch of the NAACP calls on all members of our local community who are tired of the killings, whether perpetrated by police, or by any other citizen, to join us in a “Walk to Justice.” We will announce details of our walk soon.
Our society would do well to heed the biblical wisdom that calls for action by concerned citizens, ” Truly I tell you what you do to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” We are all affected by tragedies such as these killings. So we call on everyone to be part of the solution to end the problem of racial profiling and injustice.
Ronald Ali, President
Mobile County Branch NAACP #5044