Marsha Coleman, member of No Fear Coalition, read the demand letter to a representative for Eric Holder, who met the protesters in the front of the the Robert F. Kennedy building. The representative made no official comment but took the letter with him.
Among the demands:
- Immediate arrest and prosecution of Darren Wilson,
- Assign an independent prosecutor to the Michael Brown case,
- All military personnel and equipment must be withdrawn from Ferguson township,
- Establishment of an independent Citizens’ advisory Review Board (CARB) from civil society to fully participate in the investigation of law enforcement involving the use of lethal or excessive force,
- Issue body cameras to all police officers to help protect citizens from police misconduct and to vindicate officers acting lawfully,
- Halt the flow of war weaponry into neighborhoods as well as into volatile areas abroad,
-’Legislation with life sentences for police who murder the unarmed.
Coleman stated the demands were necessary in order to heal and move the country through a dark period. “We ask you very politely-but we really are very serious-we can no longer tolerate the murder of our sons, fathers, brothers-we simply can’t take this anymore,” she said.
Organizers are mobilizing on the heels of a building crescendo of national interest in changing police force posture. They sense a climax in consciousness towards achieving justice and equal rights applied by police forces in communities across the country. They want to seize the opportunity to implement their ideas while the enthusiasm is there to do it. “This is a movement not a moment,” said Eugene Puryear, organizer at Answer Coalition.
Community police forces need to be domesticated all across the country, believes Graylan Hagler, Senior Minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church. “In Washington,D.C., just like in Ferguson, the majority of the police department comes from outside,” he said. As such they have no personal stake in the communities they police, he believes. “There’s got to be a different type of relationship with the neighborhood than just shooting, killing and locking up,” he said.
Nathan Shear, an organizer with Code Pink, Women for Peace, sees the militarization of local police forces as a major contributing force to police violence. “Through the eyes of the camera directed at Ferguson, we can see what happens when the defense department arms these police departments,” he said. The department of Defense has been sourcing military equipment to local police through a program called “1033” he said.
The 1033 program was signed into law under the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 and is administered by the Defense Logistics Agency. Since then it has transferred $5.1 billion in military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
“The defense department arms these police departments not to protect and serve but to occupy and oppress,” said Shear. The DLA website lists aircraft, tactical vehicles, weapons and heavy equipment available to over 8000 law enforcement agencies and police departments nation wide.
“The United Nations Code of Conduct for law enforcement requires that law enforcement use force and firearms only as a last resort and that the amount of force be proportionate to the threat,” said Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst with Open Society Foundations. Taifa belives law enforcement is too focused on punishment and criminalization and a new narrative is needed. She also stated change will require “creative solutions to break the criminal punishment system.”
One idea for change involves establishment of Police Accountability Review Boards (CARBs). “Police can’t investigate themselves,” said Keenan Keller, Senior Counsel of the House Judiciary Committee, speaking in reference to the Ferguson police report which was filed without any details of the shooting death of Michael Brown.
“Some police come from the military and its hard for them to look at civilians as not being the enemy,” said Cierra Bijou, a student at the University of Maryland. She and her sister, Christina agree police departments are in need of change “I think we need to get legislation passed so we can hold police officers accountable for their actions,” said Christina Bijou.
There is a new energy and movement towards changing police departments. “We need a new narrative that embraces human rights-we need innovative people that are not afraid to push the envelope for change,” said Taifa.
Washington Times, Michael Brown supporters rally in D.C., demand action from Justice
Los Angeles Times, Activists deliver letter to Holder demanding justice for Michael Brown
Roll Call, In D.C., African-Americans Ask After Ferguson, What’s Next?