By Kevin Gosztola
Dec 2, 2014 – President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder met with seven black and Latino organizers yesterday to discuss police violence in not just Ferguson, Missouri, but throughout the country. Following the meeting, Obama announced some steps his administration would be taking to address some of the issues raised. Organizers who participated in the meeting responded to the announced steps.
Obama announced there would be a task force that will “reach out and listen to law enforcement and community activists and other stakeholders.” After 90 days, a report with “concrete recommendations, including best practices for communities where law enforcement and neighborhoods are working well together” will be provided to Obama.
An executive order regulating the 1033 program, the federal program where military equipment is provided to police departments, will be issued. Obama will also be proposing “new community policing initiatives,” particularly providing “up to 50,000 additional body-worn cameras for law enforcement.”
Ashley Yates of Millennial Activists United (MAU), who met with Obama, addressed the proposed measures on a press conference call. The body cams, she noted, would not necessarily save black lives from police brutality or from being denied justice. In the case of the young black man, John Crawford, there was surveillance video of a cop gunning him down as he held an unloaded air rifle in the middle of a Walmart. Authorities still refused to indict the officer. It is possible this happens again in the cases of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, whose deaths at the hands of police were also captured on video.
The movement, according to Yates, is for the abolition of the 1033 program. “It is a form of psychological torture to walk down your street and see Humvees posted on the corner. I do not see a need for those in our city,” she stated. She could not believe that these “checks and balances” on the 1033 program had not been issued yet.
Yates also said that there must be youth voices and black people who are activists in the room when the task force meets with individuals to develop their report. “You have to allow space for the people who are affected by the militarization, by police brutality, to define their oppression so we can actually frame the problem correctly.”
T-Dubb-O, a St. Louis hip-hop artist who was part of the group that met with the president, suggested, “He’s the first African-American president of the United States.” Obama should make this “his own issue and have a speech about it. Come out and open his mouth and use the power and influence that he has in that seat. Tell the rest of America that there is an issue. He’s experienced the same issue that we’re facing today. There is an issue.”
Continue reading Organizers Who Met With Obama See Meeting as Affirmation That Movement Against Police Violence is Working