Statement on Ferguson Grand Jury Outcome, November 2014

We, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom – US Section (WILPF-US), stand with the people of Ferguson, Missouri, as they seek justice for Michael Brown and others killed by police.

The Grand Jury in Ferguson failed to bring justice to Michael Brown, or justice to those before him and those coming after him, who die needlessly at the hands of police. This injustice, only the most recent in an ongoing pattern of events, has outraged many. The original problems remain.

We are living with a racist legacy that dates from and before Emmett Till, another Black boy who never had justice. It is not gone. Racial profiling by police is a reality. People of color, are stopped, arrested, tried, convicted and given long sentences at a higher rate even though they do not have a higher rate of crime.

Our police forces have been militarized in the way they are equipped and trained, with such force being deployed mainly in poorer communities. Ordinary people are treated as the enemy of this new army. This is a symptom of the militarization that permeates our society, based on a mentality of us and them. Certain people are viewed as other, as different, as the enemy. A military is trained to fight and kill an enemy, not to provide justice to a community.

Young people of color -black and brown, and poor people are criminalized and ghettoized, often policed by people from outside of their community, with no ties to them, no knowledge of them as people, as families. Our increasingly economically polarized economy increases the divide, the distrust and the social instability. We will not solve these problems with increasingly heavy policing. We cannot solve our social and economic problems with alienation and force.

The oft repeated narrative by police who kill, that they feared for their lives, is not borne out by reality. Last year, according to the FBI records, 27 police were killed in the line of duty. Deaths of civilians killed by police are estimated to be about one for every day of the year. In some communities, people are in more danger from the police than they are from street gangs.

When civilians kill someone, they are brought to account. Anyone acting in a policing capacity must be held to at least the same standard. They are supposed to be selected and trained to have the capacity to appropriately handle lethal weapons. Instead they are almost invariably absolved when they kill someone. By not holding those individuals accountable, a culture of tolerance among police, and distrust of them, thrives.

With the present confluence of events bringing national awareness to key problems, we need to define the true nature of the issues in order to address them. The prosecutor in the Ferguson grand jury thought he could blame the victim. Clearly that did not work. We cannot, as President Obama suggested, accept this. We cannot behave as though certain lives do not matter enough. We cannot behave as though youth of color are somehow a threat. As long as we believe that our security depends on heavy policing and distrust of others; as long as our trusted officials behave out of fear instead of understanding, we will not achieve the peace and security we say we desire, in the world or in our communities.

Photo: People praying in Ferguson, MO on August 15, 2014, after the release of the name of the officer who shot Michael Brown. Photo by Dreamstime, with permission.

Alert/Update Category: