One year ago today, on the evening of November 24, 2014, I remember watching one of the most anticipated legal decisions since the O.J. Simpson verdict. This was the night that St. Louis County prosecutor Bob McCulloch announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for the shooting of Mr. Michael Brown.
One year later, my thoughts are 550 miles away in Minneapolis, MN, dealing with another police shooting of an unarmed black man. As in Ferguson, the community is protesting the targeting of black lives and the shooting of Mr. Jamar Clark. Community members are being arrested for expressing their constitutional right to peacefully assemble while the victim is being demonized as a criminal without the opportunity to defend himself, and the officers protected from the scrutiny of the citizens that they are sworn to protect.
In Ferguson, after months of protesting and community organizing while police militarized and arrested citizens, I found myself in a moment of extreme sadness and pain when Prosecutor McCulloch announced there would be no indictment. Now, one year later, I’m experiencing a Déjà vu. On November 15th of this year, Mr. Jamar Clark was shot while being arrested by two Minneapolis police officers. He later died after being removed from life support. Once again, the circumstances are unclear of how a young black man was shot during an arrest. Witnesses have given different accounts of the shooting than the police union. Various video footage is being examined during the investigation, but unfortunately there was no police body camera footage to support the investigation.
Concerns about policing are not new to Minneapolis. The Star Tribune has calculated that between 2006 and 2012, the city paid out $14 million for alleged police misconduct. One officer has reportedly racked up 19 complaints since 2007 and has cost the city more than $400,000 in two brutality cases.
As 2015 comes to a close, we must not forget the tragedies of the past 15 months. From Ferguson to New York to Baltimore to Minneapolis, we have to look at the common denominator, which is the use of lethal force by law enforcement. We must take this moment to reengage in our efforts to make law enforcement around this country accountable to the people of the community. From body cameras, re-training and demilitarizing our police departments as a community, we have to be the voice of change we want to see.
This is the time to get engaged if you’re not already engaged in Amnesty’s Deadly Force campaign. If you are engaged, push forward. We must continue to demand statutes be introduced or amended to meet international standards on the use of lethal force. We have to increase our pressure on the President to create a National Crime and Justice Task Force, and we must demand accountability for impartial investigations.
Just in these past 15 months we have seen how unnecessary or excessive use of force by police affects communities domestically and throughout the world. We must unite our struggles, from Missouri to Minnesota, from New York to Rio de Janeiro, and from Dhaka to Athens. We have to come together despite our racial, ethnic, religious or any other differences and change this system to serve and protect all communities. On this day, one year since the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting of Michael Brown, and only days after the shooting of Jamar Clark, I encourage you to get involved to reform the use of lethal force by law enforcement, and stand up for human rights.