Reverend Osagyefo Sekou talks about the causes of the new rounds of arrests and protests in Ferguson and explains why activists are calling for civil disobedience in October
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Across the United States, instances of police brutalizing and killing unarmed civilians continues to dominate headlines. Protests have again erupted in Ferguson over how local authorities have handled the killing of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown by officer Darren Wilson. The latest news at the time of production is that police have raided the camp of youth resistance group Lost Voices.
REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU, FREEMAN FELLOW, FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION: Well, fundamentally what we’ve seen is a continued series of provocations by the police as young people attempt to engage in their First Amendment rights.
NOOR: The latest unrest was sparked by an apology given by Ferguson police chief Thomas Jackson. A few hours later, he attempted to march with protesters.
THOMAS JACKSON, FERGUSON POLICE CHIEF: I want to say this to the Brown family. No one who has not experienced the loss of a child can understand what you’re feeling. I’m truly sorry for the loss of your son. I’m also sorry that it took so long to remove Michael from the street. The time that it took involved very important work on the part of investigators who were trying to collect evidence and gain a true picture of what happened that day. But it was just too long, and I am truly sorry for that.
NOOR: The family of Michael Brown has firmly maintained they want officer Darren Wilson to be charged for the death of their son. They responded to police chief Jackson’s comments in D.C., where they had traveled to demand federal action of the killing of Michael Brown.
SEKOU: Well, watching, before getting out there, I was watching the livestream. And so, upon seeing Tom Jackson come out there, and then a number of arrests being made, it was a terrible, terrible form of engagement, given the fact that the protest was against him and that their call to him was not for a conversation but his resignation. And so it was clearly a provocation on his part and clearly engaging in a kind of behavior that does not take seriously the demands of the people for his resignation.
And then, on top of the apology that he gave earlier that day, in which he did not apologize for a continued disrespect, a re-killing of Michael Brown’s character, lies about videos, and all the other things that have been gauged in [sic] that has essentially made, that has created a complete loss of trust by the public in him–and that loss of trust requires a resignation. It is the only decent thing that he can possibly do.
And so it is because of that that we have called for a great mobilization. October 10 through the 13th, the local organizations, combined with national religious organizations, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, PICO Network, the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, and other institutions, have committed themselves in such a way that they are calling for religious leaders to come from around the country to participate in a “Hands-Up” weekend, where faith institutions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday will be preaching and talking about police brutality and supporting youth organizing. And we will be prepping clergy and other folks for massive civil disobedience on October 13.
NOOR: Over the past year, 1,500 people have been killed by police, or three a day, according to a new report by Deadspin. Just this week around the country, a number of other incidents have highlighted police brutality and the need for accountability. In South Carolina, a police officer has been fired and charged after video emerged of him shooting an unarmed man at a routine traffic stop. In Ohio, a video has been released showing the final moments of John Crawford III, who was on the phone holding a pellet gun in a Walmart when he was shot and killed by police. A grand jury has decided to not indict the officers responsible, but the FBI has said they will conduct a review. Meanwhile, California Highway Patrol has agreed to pay 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock one and a half million dollars for the savage beatings she was given at the hands of officer Daniel Andrew. In a historic development, for the first time the settlement also specifies that officer Andrew will be forced to resign. He, however, will be allowed to keep his pension.
SEKOU: I think that the demands of the people, both locally and nationally, which includes an indictment of Darren Wilson, and then more the demilitarization of the police, national investigations of the policing force, and these demands of investigations into police forces around the country who continue to use excess force–.
But I do think you pose a greater question. The greater question for America is: what kind of nation will you be? Will you be a nation [that provides] tanks for small municipalities but not books for children? Will you be the kind of nation that will [tout (?)] across the nation and across the world an ideal of itself as the embodiment and paragon of freedom and justice while one-fourth of the black people in Ferguson live in poverty, while more tickets are handed out in municipalities than people are in those communities, while you are funding essential services on the back of the most vulnerable and the poor? Will you be that kind of nation?
Or will you be born again? Will you be born again into a place that is a multiracial democracy that places a premium on caring for its most vulnerable citizens? Or will you continue your vicious legacy and your cowardly behavior of betraying the most vulnerable?
NOOR: From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor.
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