DOJ urged to stay focused on police killings

Freddie Allen | 10/6/2014, 10:04 a.m. | Updated on 10/9/2014, 12:53 p.m.
Officials from the National Action Network, the National Urban League, the National Bar Association, the National Coalition on Black Civic ...
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton speaks about Michael Brown, Eric Garner and police brutality during a press conference in Washington, D.C. Behind him stand Marc Morial and Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden. Freddie Allen

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Officials from the National Action Network, the National Urban League, the National Bar Association, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union and other civil rights groups have urged the Department of Justice to remain focused on the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases and to make sure that the police officers involved are held responsible for their deaths.

During a press conference attended by the parents of Michael Brown and Garner, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League said, “In recent weeks and months, confidence around the concept of justice for all in our nation has plunged to the lowest levels that we have seen in a generation.”

On July 17, Garner, 43, was choked to death by Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Staten Island, New York. Moments before his death, officers had attempted to arrest Garner, who was unarmed, for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Although Garner’s death has been ruled a homicide, no charges have been filed against the officer involved.

On Aug. 9, Michael Brown, 18, was shot to death by Darren Wilson, a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, following a brief confrontation. Moments before Wilson fatally shot Michael Brown, the officer had asked the teenager, who was also unarmed, and another young man to stop walking in the street.

Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, said that although her son wasn’t perfect, he didn’t deserve to die.

“Our children might have made mistakes in their lives, but at the time that they were being killed, they weren’t doing – the sentence wasn’t death,” Carr said. “For selling cigarettes, the sentence wasn’t death. For the children walking in the street, the sentence wasn’t death.”

Morial said that the group demands justice, fairness and a full and complete investigation by the United States Department of Justice into Michael Brown’s death and Garner’s murder.

In recent weeks the Justice Department has announced plans to investigate the Ferguson police department to determine if they violated the rights of Black residents in the past.

On Sept. 18, Attorney General Eric Holder launched the National Initiative for Building Community Trust, a program that “will create a substantial investment in training, evidence-based strategies, policy development and research to combat distrust and hostility between law enforcement and the communities they serve,” according to a press release issued by the Justice Department.

Holder said that the events in Ferguson reminds us that we can’t allow tensions, which are present in so many neighborhoods across America, to go unresolved.

“As law enforcement leaders, each of us has an essential obligation – and a unique opportunity – to ensure fairness, eliminate bias and build community engagement,” Holder said. “The National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice represents a major step forward in resolving long-standing tensions in many of America’s communities and it will allow us to build on the pioneering work that the Justice Department and our law enforcement partners across the country are already doing to strengthen some of our nation’s most challenged areas.”