If you are outraged, like I am, by this summer’s rash of incidents of police brutality in Missouri, California, New York, and elsewhere, there are concrete steps you can take to support the movement against the use of excessive force. Each of us can and should be contributing to community efforts to police trigger-happy officers. In the process, we should be raising awareness of the criminalization of youth of color that increasingly justifies the use of excessive force, particularly in communities of color.
In this day and age of public fund-raising using social media, I find it eerie to watch thousands of dollars being raised to support Darren Wilson’s legal defense, even though it appears unlikely that the officer will be indicted or brought to trial for killing Michael Brown. Symbolically, these fund-raising efforts have come to reflect the mood of the people. I feel strongly that progressive adults need to find ways to stand with young people, especially those who understandably feel under attack. Fund-raising is an easy yet meaningful way that those of us with decent jobs and steady incomes can offer real support.
In this post, I highlight one organization led by youth of color. There are others, but this one caught my attention as I’ve been following the news out of Ferguson. I encourage readers to check out their website and learn more about the work they are doing, and then consider making a donation.
Dream Defenders emerged in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing. Dream Defenders is circulating a video that illustrates a creative approach to organizing. (I tried to post it here, but apparently Word Press doesn’t accept the mp4 format I have it in.) The activists issued six demands, presented here in their own words from the end of the video:
1. President Obama should go to Ferguson to meet with local black and brown youth.
2. Attorney General Holder should meet with black and brown youth across the country that are dealing with “zero tolerance” and “broken windows” policing.”
3. Assure transparency, accountability, and safety of our communities by requiring front-facing cameras in police departments with records of racial disparity in stops, arrests, killings, and excessive force complaints.
4. Cops need consequences too. Police officers who discharge their weapon on an unarmed person should be suspended without pay pending further investigation, and their name and policing histories should be made available to the public.
5.Tanks and tear gas don’t ever belong in our communities. America should not be going to war with its citizens. Demilitarize all police departments.
6. Police should be representative of the communities they are tasked to protect and serve and community members should have real power in citizen review boards.
“We are asking young people to go to the U.S. attorneys’ office near you and demand change… This is a national problem, and we are going to apply pressure nationally.”
Let’s support this movement for justice being led by youth. Time for sympathetic adults to step up and demand change. Let’s demonstrate our love for and solidarity with young people of color.