Justice denied

Ferguson, N.Y. cases expose injustices, spark change

Free Press wire reports | 12/5/2014, 6 a.m.
A national movement is underway to address police brutality against African-American men and the criminalization of communities of color.
Protesters of the shooting death of Michael Brown Jr. take the “hands up, don’t shoot” stance in Ferguson, Mo. as police point their weapons at them. Photo by Reuters

A national movement is underway to address police brutality against African-American men and the criminalization of communities of color.

It is being fueled by the outrage over a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer, Darren Wilson, in the fatal Aug. 9 shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson, Mo.

Adding to the outrage is a fresh decision from a Staten Island, N.Y., grand jury to exonerate a police officer who allegedly strangled a 43-year-old suspect July 17 by placing him in an illegal chokehold. On Wednesday, the grand jury declined to bring any charges against the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the death of Eric Garner.

Anger over the grand jury’s inaction against the police officer in Mr. Brown’s death has sparked continuing protests in Richmond and across the nation.

From coast to coast, protesters marched, staged “die-ins” and occupied shopping malls and other public spaces in calling for justice. The fledgling movement includes people of all ethnicities, faiths and backgrounds.

Their demands: An end to the senseless killing of unarmed African-Americans by white police officers, changes in the way law enforcement officers interact with people of color and an honest national conversation on race relations.

In Richmond, Police Chief Ray J. Tarasovic took a proactive approach to address possible racial biases among the department’s more than 700 officers.

He ordered his command staff to join Henrico County police in the first phase of sensitivity training that began Monday at the Henrico Police Academy.

The goal of the weeklong session is to improve the way the departments deal with suspects.

Chief Tarasovic said that planning for the training began before Mr. Brown was killed. However, he did not publicly announce the plan until Sept. 10, nearly a month after the slaying, and he did so as concern about the Ferguson case grew.

Also Monday, more than 70 Virginia Commonwealth University students staged a “die-in” in the middle of the campus at an area known as “The Compass.”

The demonstration began at 1:01 p.m., the same time Mr. Wilson shot and killed Mr. Brown.

Two dozen black students lay silent on the pavement for 4½ minutes to symbolize the 4½ hours police let Mr. Brown’s body lie in the street after he was killed.

More than 50 students circled the protesters with a chant that ended, “We have nothing to lose but our chains!”

Separately, the Urban League of Greater Richmond Young Professionals is to host a public discussion on the Ferguson case from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 4, at the Astyra Corp., 411 E. Franklin St. in Downtown.

The goal: To “ensure what happened in Ferguson never happens here (in Richmond),” said Victor Rogers, the group’s president. The meeting is free and open to the public.

Protests also were staged Monday on other high school and college campuses across the nation.

“Michael Brown’s death was a catalyst for a lot of issues in this country,” said Karisa Tavassoli, a 20-year-old student at Washington University in St. Louis. There, about 300 students staged a walkout Monday, the first day of classes after Thanksgiving. “We are fighting for the oppressed.”