Tags: #blacklivesmatter, black history month, eric garner, i can't breathe, michael brown, police body camera, tamir rice
Guest editorial by Kevin C. Peterson
Though it may sound counter-intuitive, this Black History Month is an occasion to reflect on the necessity of arming the police with body cameras.
As recent history has painfully taught us, there is an urgent need to dispel all ambiguity surrounding the murder of black males by local law enforcement. Police body cameras are not a panacea for this problem, but they may help.
The ostensible lessons gleaned last year from the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice are that their deaths were more than separate, unrelated incidents.
Their deaths are apart of a historical pattern, which citizens within black communities have for decades called systemic “police brutality.” Their murders illustrate the truism that a protracted season of disregard for black life continues and that “death-by-cop” is too often a testament of the longstanding tension and racial resentment between white police officers and black males–especially young African-American males in the inner cities.
Racial animosity will take a longtime to dissipate in America, but for now practical responses and new policies are needed on how the police engage black men.
This is why Segun Iduwo wants his day in Boston court–and, if necessary, he’ll gladly take jail time.
The Mattapan minister was arrested last November during a rally outside the Suffolk County jail in Roxbury. He and hundreds were protesting the historical plight of black men as part the national reaction sparked by the Ferguson, MO grand jury decision to not indict a police officer in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Iduwo says he was standing silently at the “Black Lives Matter” protest when he was “singled out” by state police and arrested.
“They just came directly to me and handcuffed me. As far as I know they didn’t arrest anybody else.”
Still in his early 20s, Idowu, who is black, possesses a strong sense of history and a clear understanding of how civil disobedience, civic engagement and direct protest action can accelerate change. A product of the Boston Latin Academy, he attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. He has also attended, until recently, Boston University’s School of Theology.
Iduwo acknowledges he was arrested on charges of “disorderly conduct,” for protesting “the wrongs done to black men” and says he is willing to answer to the charges.
In the meantime, he has been pressing Mayor Marty Walsh and Police Commissioner Williams Evans to equip each Boston police officer with a body camera, believing they will deter police misconduct. Along with Shekia Scott, Iduwo co-founded the Boston Police Camera Action Team last August.
A 2014 ACLU study reported the Boston police department’s practice of “stop-and frisk” disproportionately impacts young black males. Some have argued that “stop-and-frisk” is a harassment tool. So, keeping a police video record of those encounters makes sense and may save lives.
Legislation was recently filed by Boston City Councillor Charles Yancey to equip police officers with body cameras. Yancey said the cameras will “protect” patrol officers as much they will document how citizens interact with the police.
Late last year President Barack Obama wisely dedicated 75 million in grants for local police departments to purchase body camera equipment. Boston has yet to apply for funding.
“Not only do we want body cameras on officers but we also understand that policy must go with it … We call ourselves the cradle of democracy and we are the most progressive city in the nation. So if we are going to be progressive, then we ought to be one of the first major city all of its police officers uniformed with body cameras.”
Sometimes history is the result of winning small, mundane battles that most never notice. Often black historical advances were won on the local level–in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida’s smallest hamlets–where change was seemingly unconnected to larger, unfolding events.
Iduwo is a fresh voice who deserves attention for his principled stance and wiliness to go to jail.
He is also one of Boston’s youthful examples of how black history can be engaged by anyone at anytime if the moral intentions are right and if the price for advancement is willing to be paid.
The views expressed are those of the author.
Tags: al sharpton, barack obama, eric garner, ferguson, fr., grand jury, martin luther king, michael brown, race
Guest editorial by Kevin C. Peterson
PHILADELPHIA, PA –Its not clear that this generation of civil rights leaders can win this one.
Thousands of defiant marchers protested across the nation this weekend where hundreds lay prostrate in the streets whispering “I can’t breathe.”
The chant has become almost ubiquitous since a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict a white police officer for the death of Eric Garner last July. The protests–some riotous–have also been in response to the death of Michael Brown, victim of a similar “death-by-police” scenario.
Here in the “City of Brotherly Love,” emotions and racial discontent continue to smolder, reflecting a duality of perspective as revealed in national polling results released over the weekend about race and law enforcement.
A Bloomberg Politics poll reveals a growing racial cleavage: While 64% of white respondents agreed with the Ferguson, Mo. ruling where a grand jury refused to indict a white officer accused of killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, 71% of African-Americans strongly disagreed with the decision.
A CBS/Marist poll reported that: “By more than two-to-one, African Americans are more likely than whites to say law enforcement applies different standards to whites and blacks.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for a “March on Washington” this weekend to bring a civil rights focus on the justice system.
But will Sharpton’s agitation help? More profoundly, has the efficacy of the civil rights coalition abated? Can it produce the efforts won in Montgomery, Birmingham or Selma?
“For the first time we are having a [civil rights] movement that is not really being led by the [black] church,” said the Rev. Alyn Waller to 4,000 worshipers at Philadelphia’s Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church Sunday. “And quite frankly the church is not really out in front of this like we could and should be. And this could be the reason that the fight is not there.”
In the meantime, President Barack Obama offers protesters and the nation the anemic solution of “time.”
Monday night he told BET: “When you are dealing with something as deeply rooted as racism or bias in any society you got to have vigilance but you have to recognize that its going to take some time and you have to be steady.”
The president’s comments fall flat five decades after the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued against the brand of systemic racism clearly visible in Ferguson and Staten Island.
If he were present, King would push Obama to make bolder statements about the justice system and the plight of black men. King would chide the president’s hesitancy on forming stronger national policies on race and the law. King would urge Obama to embrace the activism on the streets to galvanize public opinion.
King would say what he uttered in the 1960s: “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
(The views expressed in the editorial are those of the author.)
Tags: barack obama, civil rights, eric holder, ferguson, michael brown, police brutality, poverty
September 26, 2014
WGBH News’ Morning Edition host Bob Seay spoke with Peniel Joseph, professor of history at Tufts University and author of Stokely: A Life, about the continuing lessons from Ferguson, MO about race, civil rights in the aftermath of the killing of an unarmed black youth.
“What you saw in Ferguson in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting was a really militarized police response, where the police were looking at the residents of Ferguson as local enemy combatants instead of citizens who you’re trying to proactively solve situations with,” observed Joseph.
The full conversation from WGBH News:
For more on events in Ferguson, watch America After Ferguson on your local PBS station, September 26, 2014 at 8:00pm (EDT). Follow the conversation on Twitter: @BasicBlackNow or #AfterFergusonPBS.