Justice for Michael Brown
Call for March on Washington to demand justice for Michael Brown and other victims of police killings of Black men and women
With demonstrations sweeping the country to protest the grand jury’s exoneration of Darren Wilson and to demand justice for Michael Brown, the need for deep and massive involvement of labor’s ranks in the streets and in the public discourse could not be clearer.
To provide a needed national focus and to sustain the momentum, we urge the civil rights and labor movements to join forces and organize a March on Washington. This would give impetus to the demand that the federal government indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown.
The Black Freedom Movement urgently needs allies in this struggle.
The same is true of the labor movement, which also faces a critical fight for its survival against the corporate onslaught.
Labor acutely needs the support of its allies in its fight against such repressive anti-labor legislation as the misnamed “right to work.” But trade unionists should support the struggles of these allies if we expect them to support our struggles. It has to be a two-way street.
Police killings of unarmed Blacks are becoming virtually a daily occurrence. [Note: Police officers, security guards, or self-appointed vigilantes extra-judicially killed at least 313 African-Americans in 2012, according to a recent study. This means that a Black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours. The report notes that it’s possible that the real number could be much higher.1]
One of the most flagrant and egregious examples was the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014 by a Cleveland police officer after a 911 caller said that someone was waving around a gun, which the caller said was “probably fake,” and added “I don’t know if it’s real or not.” (The dispatcher failed to convey this to police.) Within two seconds after their arrival, one of the two officers on the scene shot Rice in the stomach from ten feet away (which was captured on video and shown to the public at the Rice family’s insistence). The boy had never pointed the toy gun at the police or made any threats. It was not until four minutes after the shooting that Tamir received medical assistance when another man was seen bent down next to him. Young Rice died the next day.
The killing of Michael Brown was followed by the deaths of two more Black men at the hands of police in the St. Louis Area. The litany of names grows nationally: Ezel Ford in Los Angeles, Eric Garner in Staten Island, John Crawford in Ohio, and many others. Tanesha Anderson, a mentally ill Black woman, was killed in front of her family in Cleveland. And just recently Akai Gurley was gunned down in New York. Meanwhile, George Zimmerman, the vigilante executioner of Trayvon Martin, remains unpunished.
So this epidemic of unjustified police killings constitutes a national crisis. And Black people—especially the youth—feel their lives are in peril as police continue to kill them with impunity.
What is to be done?
Starting with that day in August when Michael Brown was gunned down, the Labor Fightback Network (LFN) has called for the immediate arrest of his killer. We said convening a grand jury was unnecessary, but if it was to be convened an independent prosecutor should be appointed and that Darren Wilson should be put behind bars in preparation for a public trial. Instead, prosecutor Robert McCulloch remained in place and proceeded to manipulate the grand jury into refusing to indict Wilson, who spent four hours testifying before it, with no cross examination.
But this is not the end of the fight to win justice for Michael Brown and his family. It is just the first round.
Remember what happened in 1992 when Rodney King was viciously beaten by police and his assailants were acquitted in a state court. Under pressure—and following the riots that took place in Los Angeles after the verdict was announced—the Justice Department tried the police under federal civil rights laws and won convictions of two of them, who were sent to prison.
The LFN fully supports continuing demonstrations in cities and towns across the country protesting not only Brown’s murder but also the killing of other victims wherever they take place. Such actions are also demanding an end to police brutality and racial profiling, along with other demands being put forward by the Black Freedom Movement.
We urge a united front of the civil rights and labor movements, along with progressive anti-racist community organizations, to demand Wilson’s indictment under the federal Civil Rights Act, and to make that demand a central focus of a march on Washington!
Some would-be academic scholars have expressed skepticism that federal charges against Wilson could result in his conviction because the required element of “willfulness” in killing Brown could not be proved. But these scholars are looking at this struggle from a narrow legalistic prism. The key to winning it is mass action in the streets to force the federal government to act and at last provide a forum where Wilson could be cross examined. And it is high time for the identity of those who allegedly supported his claims in the state court to be revealed so that their versions could be subjected to the kind of scrutiny that was lacking in the state proceedings.
As for “willfulness,” a New York Times article titled “Experts Weigh Officer’s Decisions Leading to Fatal Shooting” (November 27, 2014) cites a number of different courses Wilson could have taken, even if credence is given to his account as to the actual sequence of events, (and a number of publicly identified witnesses have shown by their statements that there is no basis whatever to give such credence! For example, two workers cutting nearby trees at the time have agreed that Brown appeared to be surrendering when he was shot dead and several other witnesses said the same thing.)
What about a Taser instead of deadly force? No, said Wilson, it’s too heavy to carry around. But why not put it in the back seat of the car?
What about pepper gas? No, said Wilson, it could blowback on him. But don’t police carry shields to protect themselves against blowback?
What about staying in his car while calling for police reinforcements and tailing Brown until they arrived? Wilson obviously preferred to go it alone in pursuing Brown.
The fatal flaw in Wilson’s desperate attempt to avoid responsibility for his actions is the undisputed fact that he shot Brown twice in the head instead of some other part of his body, like his leg. That’s what makes this a cold-blooded murder. That’s what provides the “willfulness.”
In any event, these are issues for a jury to decide in a public trial, not dismissed, in effect, by a prosecutor in a secret grand jury proceeding.
Enough is enough!
“ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” That is the demand vocalized especially by the youth in Ferguson. Their anger is deep and pervasive. Millions around the country share it. A march on Washington, in the tradition of those called by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., has the potential to draw huge numbers into the streets and build a new movement, the likes of which we have not seen for decades. Labor should use the occasion to mobilize its forces, cement alliances, revitalize our ranks, and help turn back the reactionary, racist tide that threatens to engulf all progressive social movements.
Issued by the Labor Fightback Network.2
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