The National Action Network (NAN) headed by Rev. Al Sharpton has issued a Call for a demonstration in Washington D.C. on Saturday, December 13. The Call was announced in the aftermath of the grand jury’s decision not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo, the killer of Eric Garner. The medical examiner had already ruled the case a homicide, caused by a chokehold and the compression of Garner’s neck and chest. Since all of the cops on the scene were culpable, they all should have been indicted. However, they were given immunity while Pantaleo was the only one who was subject to the grand jury’s decision.
Nine days earlier Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Michael Brown, was exonerated by the Ferguson grand jury.
In neither case was it the function of the grand jury to determine guilt or innocence but only whether there was probable cause based on the evidence to believe the officers involved should go to trial.
In the case of Garner, his murder was recorded on a cell phone video that was viewed many times over here and around the world. It left no room for doubt that the medical examiner got it right.
But there was no crime the grand jury said, so no trial, no cross examination, and no accountability for police who should have been arrested and jailed and held for trial; there was, in fact, no need to involve the grand jury.
These were travesties and gross miscarriages of justice. And they are stark examples proving that there is no justice for Blacks under the law when it comes to cases of police murders of unarmed Black victims. There are any number of other cases that could be cited over the past several decades that ended up with the same result.
One yet to be decided involves the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a Cleveland cop under circumstances that truly shock the conscience. The boy had a toy pellet gun that he was waving around, and he was shot by an officer within two seconds of the officer’s arriving at the scene.
Who was the officer? His name is Timothy Loehmann, and he had been judged unfit for police service two years earlier by a small suburban force where he worked for six months, according to records released on December 3.
He was specifically faulted for breaking down emotionally while handling a live gun. During a training episode at a firing range, he was reported to be “distracted and weepy” and incommunicative. “His handgun performance was dismal,” Deputy Chief Jim Polak of the Independence (Ohio) Police Department wrote in an internal memo.
The memo concludes with a recommendation that Loehmann be “released from the employment of the City of Independence.” Less than a week later, on December 4, 2012, he was allowed to resign.
In recommending Loehmann’s dismissal, Polak listed what he said were other performance shortcomings, including Loehmann’s leaving his gun unlocked, lying to supervisors and failing to follow orders.
“Due to this dangerous loss of composure during live range training and his inability to manage this personal stress, I do not believe Ptl. Loehmann shows the maturity needed to work in our employment,” Polak concludes. And this is the officer who was hired by the Cleveland Police Department to “serve and protect” the public!
All Out For December 13!
Given the failure of state or local grand juries to act, pressure must be placed squarely on the federal government. We in the Labor Fightback Network have no illusions that it will intervene on its own and charge those responsible—in the first place in Ferguson and Staten Island—with violations of the Civil Rights Act. After all, the Justice Department was supposedly considering taking action in the Trayvon Martin murder case two tears ago but has done nothing by way of follow through.
This time it can be different. This time it must be different! The pervasive anger and outrage in the Black community and its allies in this showdown struggle for justice must be translated into action and the building of a new movement of millions that will eclipse anything we have seen before. The starting point is mobilizing for the December 13 action in Washington.
With only a little more than a week to go, organizing for December 13 is in high gear. The phones are ringing off the hooks in the NAN offices. Callers are being told that the website is being updated every three hours. Buses are being chartered. A massive publicity campaign is underway, and support is being sought in every imaginable quarter.
Hopefully, the labor movement will without delay commit its resources and energy to mobilize a huge turnout of our membership in Washington on December 13. We can make a difference and we should, in the spirit of solidarity and our own self-interest. We need the backing of our allies as we face a Congress hell-bent on trampling on our rights and our members’ welfare.
What labor does now in the weeks and months ahead will be decisive in determining whether by our actions we prove ourselves loyal allies of those whose lives have been devalued to a point where Black youth are killed by police with impunity.
Stay updated by visiting the National Action Network website.
See you in D.C. on December 13!