Victims’ families urge support of national march to demand police accountability
By La Risa Lynch
Every 28 hours a Black person is murdered by police, security personnel and some self-appointed vigilante, according to a report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
Now family members of those murdered by police say enough is enough. They are urging thousands to descend on New York City on October 24, as part of #RiseUpOctober, a national day of resistance against police terror that seemingly targets Black and Brown lives.
“We need justice,” said Andrea Irwin, whose son Tony T. Robinson was fatally shot by a white Madison, Wis. police officer in March.
Robinson was acting erratically after taking hallucinogenic mushrooms when a friend called police, according to TheGuardian.com. Officer Matt Kenny shot Robinson after prosecutors said the 19-year-old attacked the officer inside a house. Kenny did not face any criminal charges in the case.
Irwin who has decried a smear campaign against her son, said Robinson needed help, not to be shot seven times by police.
“Since my son has died it seems that its nothing but murder after murder after murder televised and nationalized,” Irwin said. “We are losing our babies. We are losing our husbands and fathers in the streets and unless this whole country stands up and makes some form of a difference, it is not going to stop.”
Irwin was among nine families, who lost relatives to police shootings, lending their voices to the RiseUpOctober march and demonstration. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) is sponsoring the march to demand the end of law enforcements’ impunity to brutalize Blacks and Latinos.
To mobilize support for the march, SMIN made stops in Chicago, Cleveland, Ohio and finally Ferguson, Missouri to mark the year anniversary of Mike Brown’s death at the hands of a white Ferguson, Missouri police officer. SMIN noted that a year after Brown’s death and the chokehold death of Eric Garner also by a white police officer in New York City more Black lives have been snuffed out by police brutality.
Just in the past weeks Sam DuBose was shot and killed by a University of Cincinnati police officer during a traffic stop. Sandra Bland was found dead in a Texas jail cell of an apparent suicide after being arrested during a traffic stop. Bland’s family refutes the claim she committed suicide.
“There has been a level of resistance to these murders by police within the last year that this country hasn’t seen in decades, but with all of that resistance, the killings continue and the killer cops continue to be exonerated,” said Carl Dix, who co-founded SMIN along with social activist Cornel West. “We need to take the resistance to this horror to a much higher level.”
The New York demonstration, added Dix will send a “message to the country and the whole world that this green light to cops who brutalize and murder is unacceptable. It must be stopped and we are going to act to stop it.”
The march comes some 60 years after death of Chicago teen Emmett Till at the hands of white vigilantes in Money, Mississippi. Activists in the Black Lives Matter movement see Till’s death as emblematic of the police torture and killing of Black and Latinos occurring today.
Till, while visiting relatives, was killed for whistling at a white woman. The 14-year-old was taken from his cousin’s home during the night by the woman’s husband Roy Bryant and his brother-in-law J.W. Milam. His body was discovered days later beaten, shot and with a 40-lb cotton gin wrapped around his neck with barbed wire in the Tallahatchie River.
Bryan and Milam were acquitted of Till’s murder by an all-white jury.
Till’s lynching back then and the police killings of Blacks now is about keeping individuals in their place, Dix explained.
“Sandra Bland is dead because that cop decided she did not know her place and he was going to put her in it. I call that a modern day lynching…,” said Carl Dix, SMIN co-founder.
Instead of the Ku Klux Klan in white hooded sheets on horseback, “the lynching rope has been replaced by police departments with badges and guns,” Dix said. “[It’s] a message to all Black people to get in to their place and to stay in their place.”
Community activist Raymond Richard urged people to stay on message of demanding police accountability. Too many people, he said, want the focus to be on Black and Black crime instead of police brutality. While that is a major concern, he said those charged to “serve and protect us now are also perpetuating the violence throughout our county.”
“We have to change the laws and policies and the judicial system in order to get these crooked racist … cops off our streets,” said Richard, founder of Brothers Standing Together, an organization combating urban violence.
For change to happen people cannot stand on the sidelines, Dix noted.
“Everybody needs to be a part of saying police getting away with murder must stop,” he said. “There is no neutrality. There is no middle ground to stand on when dealing with this issue. Everybody needs to get on the right side of this. I don’t care if you are white, Black, Latino, Asian, Native American. This is your problem.”
LaToya Howell never thought it would be her problem until it did. Her son, Justus Howell, 17, was shot in April by a Zion, Illinois police officer after the teen allegedly pointed a gun at him during a chase. The officer was also cleared of any wrongdoing.
“There’s a cliché: ‘Oh I didn’t think it would happen to me.’ I was one of those. But it did happen and it can happen to you. We have to put a stop to it,” Howell said. “We need more than just sympathy. Sympathy gets us nowhere, but more tears [and] more bloodshed. We need to stand [together] to stop police brutality.”
“There is power in numbers,” added Mertilla Jones, who is still pained by the loss of her 7-year-old granddaughter. Her granddaughter, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, was murdered by a white Detroit police officer in 2010 during a botched raid on her home. “More people need to get up, get out and be about the progress toward stopping police brutality and police killings.”
For more information visit www.stopmassincarceration.net