Black lives matter. But two recent grand jury decisions underscore our nation’s shameful history of institutional racism and the undeniable reality that white police officers are rarely held accountable for killing or brutalizing African Americans.
The system is clearly broken. The courts have failed us. With few meaningful – and virtually no immediate – avenues for pursuing justice, people have taken to the streets in cities and towns across the country in a massive wave of protests.
Huge numbers of Americans support these protests, some of which have occurred every single night since Thanksgiving. Even President Obama acknowledged their importance, saying, “[a]s long as they’re peaceful, I think they’re necessary” because “power concedes nothing without a fight.”
CREDO stands in solidarity with these protests which fit squarely within an American tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience that has been part of every successful social change movement in American history.
The protests, which have often been organized by small local groups of activists, or spontaneously over social media, have been huge, beautiful and overwhelmingly peaceful expressions of anger, grief and a deep desire for change.
Protesters have staged die-ins, blocked highways and public transit, organized student walk-outs, disrupted city-sponsored holiday celebrations, and chanted slogans like “Black lives matter!” and “Eric Garner, Michael Brown, shut it down, shut it down!”
Though the vast majority of these events have been peaceful, some protesters have faced arrests, rubber bullets, tear gas, pepper spray, stun grenades, and beatings by police. In American history, civil disobedience has often been met with harsh police repression, and the increase of military weaponry sent to local police departments may have increased their willingness to use violence against peaceful protesters.
Media coverage of these protests has often focused on occasional acts of property destruction and violence against police by a small minority of protesters. CREDO does not support those few who damage small businesses or in any way attack police, but their actions should in no way distract from the greater issue of holding police accountable for racial profiling and violence.
These protests are organic, decentralized and often spontaneous, so it can be challenging to find out about local actions. Here are some ways you can find online information about protests near you:
2. Search for events on Facebook. Search for events using the name of your city and combinations of keywords like “Ferguson,” “Michael Brown,” “Eric Garner,” “black lives matter,” and “grand jury.”
3. Search on Twitter and other social media sites using hashtags like #Ferguson, #MikeBrown, #MichaelBrown, #BlackLivesMatter, #EricGarner, #ICantBreathe, #ThisStopsToday, and #ShutItDown.
4. Connect with local racial justice and civil rights organizations in your community. There are countless grassroots organizations across the country leading this movement at the local level.
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This is a historic moment of organic mass-mobilization that has the potential to help change how police forces operate, and the impact that policing has on African-American communities. That said, we also want to be clear about a few things.
First, these protests are sometimes dangerous, and, while the overwhelming majority of people who participate do so without being harmed or arrested, there are very real, very serious risks.
Police have at times responded aggressively, foolishly and with overwhelming and unnecessary force. Some protesters have been seriously injured, and hundreds, if not thousands, have been arrested.
Second, you may not agree with everything that happens at these protests; CREDO certainly doesn’t. The participants in these protests represent a diverse set of groups, perspectives, and goals, and they’ve employed a diverse set of tactics – including property destruction and violence against the police.
Third, these protests are no substitute for long-term, deliberate and strategic pressure on government officials to reform policing in our country – but they are a natural and important complement to that work.
While their message is usually clear and powerful, these protests don’t always clearly articulate an immediate political objective or call on specific political leaders to make change. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve lasting reform without also making specific policy demands, focusing pressure on specific government officials who can meet those demands, and organizing long-term campaigns to win.
CREDO has joined with allies like ColorOfChange.org to fight for federal reform that will hold police accountable for abusive and racially motivated attacks on African Americans and other people of color, protect our first amendment rights to protest, end the dangerous militarization of police tactics, and reform the broken grand jury system and criminal justice system. We will continue that important work, and will continue to enlist your help.
From the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline to Occupy Wall Street, CREDO has long supported nonviolent civil disobedience as a way of making the change we need when nothing else seems likely to work. We strongly believe that, because racism and violence are such deeply entrenched parts of American policing, it will take truly massive public pressure to build momentum for reform.
We hope that you will learn more about protests happening in your community, make an informed judgment about whether and how you can join them, and, most of all, continue the fight for civil rights in our country.