The modern-day lynching of George Floyd by Minneapolis police is a devastating tragedy. Nearly six years after Eric Garner’s death in New York, the horrifying scenes captured on video and the eerily reminiscent cries of “I can’t breathe” demonstrate an absence of meaningful change as police continue to take the lives of Black people with callous brutality.
El Centro de la Raza condemns the senseless murder of George Floyd – in the strongest possible terms – as we remember Breonna Tayor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and Philando Castile; at a local level, we remember John T. Williams, Che Taylor, Charleena Lyles, and countless others whose names never made headlines but whose lives were also cut short by anti-Black racism and police violence.
We stand in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in saying enough is enough; the time for change is overdue. We demand justice and accountability, not only for the perpetrator, but also for the other officers who stood by in silence. We demand better from our leaders to stop police brutality for our children, families, and communities. There is no excuse to look the other way; no excuse to be complicit; no excuse to oppress communities of color to uphold white supremacy. It falls on us collectively to organize and mobilize.
The waves of uprisings that have ignited across the country is a natural culmination of the anger and pain at the continuous racial terror and violence that police regularly perpetuate in our Black communities. Pain exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionally ravaged the Black community, and a deep economic crisis is hitting those hardest who are at the bottom of the economic ladder.
At the same time, it has been deeply disturbing to witness the frequently violent responses by police toward protestors. Police have violently charged peaceful protestors, driven police vehicles through crowds, shot rubber bullets, sprayed protesters with harmful gases, and punched, kicked, beaten, arrested, and detained people for doing nothing wrong. These assaults on protesters are unacceptable violence. Our communities should be able to protest injustices in our streets without suffering from police violence and militarized responses.
El Centro de la Raza is committed to combatting institutional racism and police brutality in all its forms. Despite decades of effort through multi-racial coalitions to address police misconduct, which has yielded some successes, we are challenged to recognize that our communities are still plagued with police brutality, which was evident this past weekend.
Twelve thousand (12,000) complaints were filed after this past weekend’s demonstrations with Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability. One complaint included an officer placing his knee on the neck area of two people who had been arrested. All this despite the Seattle Police Department (SPD) being under a Federal Consent Decree.
Several weeks ago, the City of Seattle filed a motion with the court to terminate the sustainment areas under the Federal Consent Decree, stating that the Police Department had achieved full and effective compliance for two years under ten key areas. Police Accountability continues to be an area that needs to be addressed by the City.
Discipline and Use of Force are two other areas within the sustainment plan, which should clearly remain on the table for the community, especially in light of the recent and ongoing events that have transpired in Seattle since this past weekend’s protest, and as noted in the sheer number of complaints received in the last few days by the OPA.
In 2015 and 2016, the Community Police Commission submitted recommendations to the use of blast-balls during demonstrations to the Mayor and SPD. Those recommendations are still relevant and necessary. The Mayor’s Office has not fleshed out a methodology for sustaining the reforms needed, and sadly, the need for this has now become front and centered over the weekend.
We will continue to work with Black Leaders and other leaders of color to call for concrete policy proposals to address systemic targeting and violence against Black communities. These policy proposals should include de-militarization, budget reductions, and enhanced transparency, particularly around misconduct and community oversight of police functions.
More often than not, police budgets comprise a significant proportion of discretionary spending and grow steadily year on year. The scope, militarization, and intensity of law enforcement have rapidly increased. In contrast, police have been mistakenly tasked with addressing social problems within communities of color, such as education, mental health, homelessness, and drug abuse.
These dynamics have, in turn, resulted in the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color, often with destructive and deadly consequences and minimal accountability for wrongdoing. As allies, our job is to work with the Black community to demand resources that are invested in Black communities in ways that enhance public safety and enrich our communities rather than simply expand and further militarize police ranks.
The United States is not yet a place where Black lives matter as equally as they must. As we raise our collective voices to demand justice for George Floyd and his family, we do so in continued support and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. We will support this movement until Black people no longer have to encounter police violence and die at the hands of law enforcement; until they no longer experience higher levels of poverty, income inequality, lack of access to jobs, and when they no longer face discrimination in housing, educational segregation, and limited access to public transportation.
The complex, hard, and necessary work to undo decades of discrimination and prejudice requires unity, leadership, and action. We will continue to work with Black community leaders and other leaders of color towards creating a more inclusive, safe, and just nation, which we believe the vast majority of Americans want. We stand ready to pursue the policy changes that will begin to root out the structural racism and injustice that led to George Floyd’s tragic death and those of many others.
Ways to take action now
Donate to the George Floyd Memorial Fund.
Donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
Donate to Black Visions Collective.
Donate funds or supplies to the healthcare workers aiding and protecting protestors (Northstar Health Collective Medics).
Support the activists working on the frontlines in Minnesota (Reclaim the Block).
Register to vote or update your voter registration information by visiting your state’s Secretary of State’s website (King County | Washington State).