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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Leaders, organizations speak out on St. Louis County Grand Jury decision

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Following are statements from various elected officials and organizations on the St. Louis County Grand Jury’s decision not to indite Darren Wilson in the shooting and killing of Michael Brown.

President Barack Obama

The grand jury deliberating the death of Michael Brown issued its decision. It’s an outcome that, either way, was going to be subject of intense disagreement not only in Ferguson, but across America. So I want to just say a few words suggesting how we might move forward.

First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction. But I join Michael’s parents in asking anyone who protests this decision to do so peacefully.

Let me repeat Michael’s father’s words: “Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change, positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.” Michael Brown’s parents have lost more than anyone. We should honor their wishes.

I also appeal to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur. Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day. They’ve got a tough job to do to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. As they do their jobs in the coming days, they need to work with the community, not against the community, to distinguish the handful of people who may use the grand jury’s decision as an excuse for violence – distinguish them from the vast majority who just want their voices heard around legitimate issues in terms of how communities and law enforcement interact.

Finally, we need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to broader challenges that we still face as a nation. The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country. And this is tragic, because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates. The good news is we know there are things we can do to help. And I’ve instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement.

That means working with law enforcement officials to make sure their ranks are representative of the communities they serve. We know that makes a difference. It means working to train officials so that law enforcement conducts itself in a way that is fair to everybody. It means enlisting the community actively on what should be everybody’s goal, and that is to prevent crime.

And there are good people on all sides of this debate, as well as in both Republican and Democratic parties, that are interested not only in lifting up best practices – because we know that there are communities who have been able to deal with this in an effective way – but also who are interested in working with this administration and local and state officials to start tackling much-needed criminal justice reform.

So those should be the lessons that we draw from these tragic events. We need to recognize that this is not just an issue for Ferguson, this is an issue for America. We have made enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades. I’ve witnessed that in my own life. And to deny that progress I think is to deny America’s capacity for change.

But what is also true is that there are still problems and communities of color aren’t just making these problems up. Separating that from this particular decision, there are issues in which the law too often feels as if it is being applied in discriminatory fashion. I don’t think that’s the norm. I don’t think that’s true for the majority of communities or the vast majority of law enforcement officials. But these are real issues. And we have to lift them up and not deny them or try to tamp them down. What we need to do is to understand them and figure out how do we make more progress. And that can be done.

There’s never an excuse for violence, particularly when there are a lot of people in goodwill out there who are willing to work on these issues. On the other hand, those who are only interested in focusing on the violence and just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to do here, and we shouldn’t try to paper it over. Whenever we do that, the anger may momentarily subside, but over time, it builds up and America isn’t everything that it could be.

And I am confident that if we focus our attention on the problem and we look at what has happened in communities around the country effectively, then we can make progress not just in Ferguson, but in a lot of other cities and communities around the country.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

While the grand jury proceeding in St. Louis County has concluded, the Justice Department’s investigation into the shooting of Michael Brown remains ongoing. Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now. Even at this mature stage of the investigation, we have avoided prejudging any of the evidence. And although federal civil rights law imposes a high legal bar in these types of cases, we have resisted forming premature conclusions.

Michael Brown’s death was a tragedy. This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve. While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust. The Department will continue to work with law enforcement, civil rights, faith and community leaders across the country to foster effective relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve and to improve fairness in the criminal justice system overall. In addition, the Department continues to investigate allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns or practices by the Ferguson Police Department.

Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence. Those who decide to participate in demonstrations should remember the wishes of Michael Brown’s parents, who have asked that remembrances of their son be conducted peacefully. It does not honor his memory to engage in violence or looting. In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays—and uses—of force.”

U.S. Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis

My prayers are with the Brown family who lost their son far too soon. No parent should have to live through such an ordeal.

As a young African American man, I can relate to the frustration being felt on the streets of Ferguson. The history of our nation, past and present, is plagued with incidents of bigotry and discrimination in our justice system. Racial injustice continues to afflict our communities and with each incident like this one, old wounds are reopened. The feelings felt tonight are real and cannot be discounted.

As a former law enforcement officer, I respect our system of justice but also recognize its shortcomings. We have a long way to go to guarantee our country’s children of color are protected equally under the law, in every instance, in every neighborhood, all across our country. No community should have to doubt whether justice has prevailed when a decision like this one is handed down.

This is the start of a long and difficult process, not simply of overcoming the pain felt in Ferguson, but of honestly assessing how justice is provided across our country. This process starts with peaceful protests and ends with lasting reform that protects all Americans equally, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status.

This will not be easy or quick. But what is clear is that this march toward a better, more equitable country cannot start with violence. It is my hope that all Americans can respect the Brown’s family request for peace and use this tragedy to advocate for real and lasting change.

Marc H. Morial, president & CEO of the National Urban League

We are of course indescribably disappointed. We are disappointed in the grand jury’s decision. We are disappointed in St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch’s focus more on the media’s reaction to this injustice than to the loss of Michael Brown’s life. We are disappointed that this does not reflect the best of what our nation can be. This is not a proud day for America. We uphold the justice system and legal structure that has helped to guide the course of America and many of the rights we all enjoy today. But nothing is perfect. When we abandon the very foundational tenet of justice for all, we abandon a core part of who we are as a nation.

We respect the grand jury’s decision in the course of due process of our legal system. We will, however, continue to fight for justice and accountability in the death of Michael Brown. As such, we first and foremost urge the Department of Justice to continue a full and thorough investigation to determine whether federal civil rights charges should be filed against Officer Wilson, as well as to carry out federal reviews of police misconduct and implement key recommendations for police reform. The excessive use of force by law enforcement in our communities is unacceptable, and we know that we cannot prevent future similar tragedies unless and until there is systemic change across the nation in the area of police reform.

Most critically, we want to reaffirm our commitment to nonviolent peaceful protest and expression of our demands and to discourage any violent acts. We fully support and align with Attorney General Eric Holder’s comments that ‘History has also shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to nonaggression and nonviolence…Peaceful protest has been a hallmark, and a legacy, of past movements for change, from patriotic women who demanded access to the franchise, to the civil rights pioneers who marched for equal rights and equal justice.’

Those who seek to perpetuate injustice should know that we will not stop, we will not quit, we will not rest…until justice for all has been served.

Ron Busby Sr., president & CEO, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.

Like most Americans, we are disappointed by the grand jury decision in Ferguson, Mo. and the results of the protests that followed. We at the U.S. Black Chambers Inc. (USBC) watched dozens of small and minority businesses be destroyed by fires and looting, yet we remain steadfast in our commitment to the city’s rebuilding and its economic empowerment. We commend those who have chosen to stand up and reopen your doors, as we know those were not easy decisions.

Representing more than 100 Black Chambers of Commerce and small business associations across the country, we understand and appreciate the importance of standing in solidarity and moving beyond the hurt and anger. Together we will rebuild the city of Ferguson, therefore offering hope and opportunity to its residents.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

The National Executive Committee, National Executive Board, and members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. extend sincere condolences and support to the family of Michael Brown Jr.

As an organization of women, we cannot stand on the sidelines and watch our children being taken from us,” said Dr. Paulette Walker, National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

As parents, elders, caretakers, community organizers, faith leaders and public servants, it is with a heavy heart that we are again mourning the loss of another one of our sons, Michael Brown Jr., a future college student on the cusp of greatness. According to his father Michael Brown Sr., “the boy did not like violence and steered clear of it… He’d bring people back together.”

Michael Brown’s parents have suffered a loss that no parent should endure – a tragic loss resulting from the senseless gun violence that is prevalent and on the rise in African-American communities.

“This is a civil and human rights issue when the notion that our young Black men pose a threat to the very existence of the American culture,” said Lucia McBath, mother of Jordan Davis, during Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.’s Social Action Luncheon in Boston Aug. 16, 2014. Jordan Davis’ life was also cut short in November 2012 when an armed man shot into a vehicle of teenagers solely because of the volume of the music playing in the vehicle.

“Today as we hug our children a little bit longer, organize meetings, and lead prayer vigils in the wake of this senseless tragedy, let’s remember that as social activists we are charged with the responsibility to educate our communities and advocate against injustice,” said Walker. “We cannot allow this epidemic of gun violence to prevail.”

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. calls upon its members to further their involvement by keeping abreast of developments in the Michael Brown Jr. incident as they unfold, to be vigilant in monitoring legislators and legislation in their states and in their local communities, and advocate for the repeal of gun laws that continue to result in tragic and senseless actions upon African-Americans.

Our thoughts and prayers will remain with Michael Brown’s family throughout this ordeal. We are committed to working tirelessly for equal justice. We also support efforts on gun control legislation and laws that will prevent the senseless taking of the lives of our youth – our future.

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc.

In the aftermath of the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. calls on the U.S. Department of Justice to continue to investigate, but to do it thoroughly with vigor and bring federal charges in this case. The failure of the justice system to produce an indictment and move on to a fair and impartial trial is troubling in the face of the publicly available evidence.

The International President of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Jonathan A. Mason Sr., had the following to say, “With all of the recent cases across the country of police officers killing unarmed African -American males, the time for federal oversight is overdue. The unjust criminalization of young men of color by law enforcement is both tragic and devastating. The repeated lack of justice is unacceptable, and Phi Beta Sigma stands with other organizations and individuals across America who are calling for accountability.”

In addition, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. is committed to assisting the Brown family, the Ferguson community and the St. Louis metropolitan area in their quest for healing. Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. is calling on those members of the public, who are destroying businesses and properties in Ferguson, to stop this unproductive activity. The organization will join the restoration and rebuilding efforts immediately.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® expressed disappointment over the grand jury decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown, a

Black teenager shot to death by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo.

International President Dorothy Buckhanan Wilson, speaking on behalf of the sorority’s 265,000 members worldwide, called the decision by the grand jury “a miscarriage of justice” that sends the wrong message to the black community and continues to underwrite the deep and long held disconnect between the African-American community and law enforcement.

“The members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority are deeply disappointed that Officer Darren Wilson will not be held responsible for Brown’s death last summer,” Buckhanan Wilson said. “It is a grave injustice to Americans who believe in the country’s fundamental principles of justice and fairness. In the wake of this decision, we are calling on the Ferguson community to remain calm and non-violent while organizing peaceful protests that express their disappointment and outrage.”

After meeting for 70 hours and seeing 60 witnesses, the grand jury returned a “no bill”, declining to indict Officer Wilson in the death of Brown, 18, who was unarmed when he was shot on August 9, 2014.

Buckhanan Wilson urged the Ferguson community and citizens around the country to use this occasion to seek out opportunities that allow open, constructive, and respectful discourse that make a broader impact on racial inequality, law enforcement relations, and judicial reform so that this young man’s life will not be lost in vain.

She remains optimistic that investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and other federal government agencies will yield a different outcome. Buckhanan Wilson goes on to say that no matter the outcome of these ongoing investigations, community members have the power to make positive and proactive change in their community in the aftermath of the grand jury decision.

The organization continues to keep the Brown family in our thoughts and prayers as they continue to mourn the loss of their son. The sorority, using every resource at its disposal, will continue to fight for justice and equality for Michael Brown and other young black men across the country victimized by a criminal justice system that places little value in their lives, Buckhanan Wilson said.

Chrystal Ratcliffe, president of The Greater Indianapolis NAACP

The Greater Indianapolis NAACP Branch is deeply disappointed that the grand jury did not indict Darren Wilson for the senseless and tragic death of Michael Brown. While we are frustrated, we stand committed to continue our fight against racial profiling, police brutality and the militarization of local authorities. We will remain steadfast in our fight to pass legislation to End Racial Profiling.

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.”

In the wake of this injustice, The Greater Indianapolis NAACP Branch is calling for IMPD’s continued cooperation to include fair treatment of our citizens and accountably of it’s officers.

Our prayers continue to go out to the family, friends and neighbors of 18- year-old Michael Brown. The senseless death of yet another African-American at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community where he lived is heartbreaking.

The NAACP is calling on the community to act collectively and calmly until we secure justice for the family of Michael Brown.

TonyMason, president & CEO of the Indianapolis Urban League

The killing of Michael Brown has forever left a void in the hearts and lives of his parents, family and friends, who lost a son and loved one much too soon. His killing and the decision to not indict Officer Wilson are painful reminders that criminal justice disparities, volatile police-community relations, unemployment and economic inequities still tarnish our nation preventing our communities and our people from achieving its true potential.

We must remain vigilant in our quest for and journey toward accountability, justice, and reform through nonviolent peaceful protests and demonstrations that have led to the most sustained change throughout our nation’s history. We will continue to advocate for legal reform while also remaining committed to promoting quality schools, job growth and safe communities.

The Indianapolis Urban League remains committed to serving as a voice and vehicle for our community. We encourage free speech, done so in a manner, which is nonviolent and focused on creating results that will improve the quality of life for all people. Below is a statement from Marc H. Morial, National Urban League President & CEO. Let us all join together to let our voices be heard and recommit ourselves in our pursuit of justice and liberty for all.

Tanya Bell, president & CEO of Indiana Black Expo

First, I’d like to extend my thoughts and prayers to the family of Michael Brown. As a parent of a Black teenage boy, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a son in such a tragic way. The decision by the grand jury not to charge Officer Darren Wilson further adds to the pain and disappointment. Unlike the grand jury, we do not have the evidence before us to know whether Officer Wilson was justified in his actions. However, we cannot ignore the reality that another white police officer has shot and killed an unarmed Black teenager.

This is an unfortunate epidemic that is occurring across the nation. In this case, Officer Wilson has been afforded the grand jury process to determine probable cause rather than being charged and tried in the court of law. This seems unjust and is part of the reason that so many have a lack of confidence in our judicial system. Peaceful protests and marches are a great way to show our displeasure in a broken system that results in death for too many of our young Black men. However, we must protest through action and work together for justice reform.

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