‘A Miscarriage of Justice’: The World Reacts to Ferguson

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Protesters denounce the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at a Staten Island protest last summer.

Thomas Altfather Good

Protesters denounce the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown at a Staten Island protest last summer.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries:
“From Ferguson to Brooklyn, the zip codes may be different but the issue of police officers shooting young, unarmed African-American men without justification is exactly the same. Throughout this country, we need a dramatic change in the manner that law enforcement authorities engage communities of color. The failure of the grand jury to indict Officer Darren Wilson is a miscarriage of justice. But justice delayed is not justice denied. We now need the federal civil rights investigation to take center stage, and do the right thing for the family of Michael Brown.”

Public Advocate Letitia James:
“Like so many Americans, I have been shocked and saddened by the Michael Brown case. No man, woman, or child in our country should ever lose their life due to police misconduct. Whether it’s the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Akai Gurley here in New York City, or the many other unarmed victims who have lost their lives after encountering those who are supposed to protect them, enough is enough. I pray for Michael, Akai, and all others who have left us too soon. What we need now is reform and action, not violence or vengeance. Our cities, starting with New York, must speed up reforms like effective police assignments, body-worn cameras, and appropriate police oversight. The federal government must re-examine the conduct of law enforcement around the country and the Justice Department must act to preserve the civil liberties of every single American,

Comptroller Scott Stringer:
“Following tonight’s decision, it’s more important than ever that police and the communities they serve—in New York City and across the nation–work together to ensure that such tragic violence never happens again. We can’t bring Michael Brown back, and the emotions generated by his death will be with us for a long time. But we can use this moment to continue striving for a society where all people are treated equally and fairly under the law. My heart goes out to the Brown family tonight.”

Police Reform Organizing Project
“The calls for calm by political and civic leaders from President Obama on down will continue mainly to fall on deaf ears until people, especially persons from the directly affected communities, see convincing evidence that our society and government and their representatives will no longer promote, condone, or engage in unfair and abusive policing in all its forms.”

Make the Road New York youth leader Keeshan Harley:
“This decision in Ferguson reaffirmed everything that I believe about this country. I am disappointed, saddened, angry and extremely frightened all at once. Time and time again—Heyward, Diallo, Bell, Trayvon, Brown and too many others—justice has failed, delivering the message to young men of color that our lives are worthless.

“Last Thursday, New York City once again experienced the trauma of losing one of our own when 28 year old Akai Gurley was shot and killed by a rookie officer in the Pink Houses of East New York. What message does this Ferguson verdict say to families of color across the U.S.?

“As we remember Michael Brown and Akai Gurley, let us remember that none of this is accidental. We live in a nation where laws do not treat people of color as equal. We live in a nation where black and brown boys cannot walk around without feeling like targets. We live in a nation where a 20-year old can be stopped over 100 times by the NYPD for absolutely no reason. I am that 20-year-old.

“The bottom line is that systemic change is needed in the ways that police across our country interact with us. Hyper-aggressive policing of our communities is not working and the inability of our legal system to acknowledge and address the role that race plays in these repeated incidents is problematic.

“The Ferguson decision is a symptom of our nation’s illness. People of color are tired of marching every time another life is stolen. We are tired of leaving our apartments fearful that this could be the last time we return to our families. We are all just tired.”

Marjorie Dove Kent, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice:
“We have barely had the time to mourn the death of one person of color by the police before another murder hit the news. As we take in the grand jury’s verdict on Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown in the street in Ferguson, and we await the grand jury’s decision on the officers who killed Eric Garner here in New York by using a chokehold on him during an unprovoked arrest, we were heartbroken to learn of the murder of Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old black man shot in the chest in his apartment building by a police officer in Brooklyn on Thursday evening. And not 48 hours later, we learned of the death of Tamar Rice, a 12-year-old black boy shot for playing with a BB gun in a Cleveland park on Saturday afternoon.

“From Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton we hear these deaths described as disconnected, unfortunate ‘accidents.’ But these deaths are not merely accidental. They are the tragic results of systemic racism in the police departments that are supposed to protect us — all of us. These deaths are the outcome of a system that supports disrespectful and violent policing of communities of color, and demands no real accountability when a person of color is killed.

“Police officers are, in effect, trained to shoot first and investigate later. Too many times, later is too late. We must demand real and systemic change.”

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Executive Director Vincent Warren:
“It’s difficult to see how anyone in the community can have faith in the system at this point: the failure to indict sends the clear message that it’s open season on people of color. All resistance must be viewed through that lens, and the focus must remain on the injustice of a white police officer getting away – yet again – with killing a young unarmed Black man. We stand with the community in anger and in mourning. We stand with the people in the streets of Ferguson, just as the world stood with protesters in Tahrir Square, in Gaza, in Hong Kong. The world must learn: Black lives matter.”

Working Families National Director Dan Cantor and Center for Working Families Executive Director Valerie Ervin:
“The moral logic of this decision would be incomprehensible if it weren’t so routine. Another young Black man is killed, and somehow, no one has committed a crime. We must tell the truth about the nation as we see it: all lives are not given equal worth. As long as this truth stands, our nation is failing to live up to its promise. Today, we rededicate ourselves to changing not just hearts and minds, but also laws and public officials until the stain of racial injustice is erased.

“Fifty-nine years ago, a fourteen-year-old Black boy, Emmett Till was beaten, tortured and killed for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. His mother decided that his body would be seen in an open casket to allow the world to look in and see the injustice. His murder helped light the spark of the civil rights movement. Three months ago, Michael Brown’s body was left in the street for hours after his death in Ferguson, Missouri. Soon, the eyes of America, and then the world were watching. Let this abrogation of justice catalyze a new movement for justice and dignity for all.”

Assemblyman-Elect Michael Blake
“As a black man, this decision brings pain to my soul. Once again, it feels that our lives are seen as less important than others. Justice is not fairly applied in communities of color across the country, plain and simple. Time and again, this kind of injustice is seen in The Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Chicago, L.A. and urban communities throughout our nation. The pain we feel for the people of Ferguson is a pain too often felt by our beloved brothers and sisters in cities across America. It must end.

“We don’t need the national guard in our streets for our citizens to feel even more threatened. We need to let people have peaceful protests to voice out their pain to bring about healing.”

Councilman Jumaane Williams
“As we learned about the grand jury’s decision last night, the results for most of us were not surprising, but disheartening nonetheless. It disturbed me that instead of deciding whether or not there was enough evidence existing to support an indictment, the jury essentially conducted a full trial. That was not the charge of a grand jury, as I understood it. …

[M]any would want America to focus on minute details of this single case and ask that the verdict be accepted, but to do that would overlook the forest of much more dense and troubling trees. Perhaps it would be a reasonable request if history did not repeat itself time and time again. However, the killing of Michael Brown is not about one incident, but is another example of how all too often young black or brown unarmed men are being killed by the people who are paid to protect them. Even worse is when our justice system sends out a resounding message that it doesn’t care.”

Bree Carlson, Director of the Structural Racism Program at National People’s Action:
“While surprising to no one, it is nonetheless devastating that law enforcement and the State of Missouri have once again affirmed that Black lives do not matter and that as Black people, we cannot expect the same protection from violence that white citizens enjoy. …

“We demand an immediate end to the law enforcement violence in Ferguson and the immediate and unconditional de-militarization of all law enforcement agencies. We demand that the Department of Justice perform a comprehensive review of systemic abuses by local police departments, including the publication of data relating to racially biased policing. Finally, the Department of Justice must repurpose law enforcement funds toward community based policing.”

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, head of the U.S. Conference of Mayors:
“Once again, our hearts go out to the family of Michael Brown who tragically lost his life much too soon, as well as to the entire Ferguson community, which has endured the consequences of this event and its aftermath. The nation’s mayors strongly believe that there should have been open-court proceedings in the case of the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown so that the evidence could have been presented in a public forum, and a verdict could have been rendered by a jury.

“We hope that prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch will release the full transcript and audio proceedings of the Grand Jury as he promised in September.  This will ensure that Michael Brown’s family, as well as the community and the American public will have a greater understanding of what happened on August 9.  As leaders of cities across the country, we are committed to working with our communities to ensure that this tragedy is never repeated. 

“There is an understandable feeling of discontent in the community, and there will no doubt be protests. Our hope is that any demonstrations that occur will be peaceful and nonviolent so that we can begin to heal from this difficult time.”

Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO:
“The NAACP stands with citizens and communities who are deeply disappointed that the grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson for the tragic death of Michael Brown, Jr. We stand committed to continue our fight against racial profiling, police brutality and the militarization of local authorities. The death of Michael Brown and actions by the Ferguson Police Department is a distressing symptom of the untested and overaggressive policing culture that has become commonplace in communities of color all across the country. We will remain steadfast in our fight to pass the End Racial Profiling federal legislation. And we stand in solidarity with peaceful protesters and uphold that their civil rights not be violated as both demonstrators and authorities observe the “rules of engagement.

“The grand jury’s decision does not mean a crime was not committed in Ferguson, Missouri, nor does it mean we are done fighting for Michael Brown, Jr. At this difficult hour, we commend the courage and commitment of Michael Brown’s family, as well as local and national coalition partners.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
“The reactions to today’s grand jury decision in the case of the shooting of unarmed teenager Mike Brown reflect a deeper feeling that our justice system is biased against communities of color. While we can all agree that justice must take its course, we cannot deny or marginalize the perception that the system, itself, is not yet color blind. As a labor movement, we have begun working with local community organizations to address issues of racial and economic inequality that surround Ferguson and so many other neighborhoods like it. We will continue that work. We are dedicated to supporting organizing efforts that reinforce unity, healing, and fairness in policing.”