WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Green Party leaders and activists expressed support for ongoing protests across the U.S., especially for nonviolent protesters facing brutal police retaliation, in the wake of a St. Louis County grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
The protesters' anger was further inflamed by Wednesday's breaking news that a New York City grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer accused of killing Eric Garner, an unarmed 43-year-old father of six, in Staten Island by putting him in an illegal chokehold.
Greens called for aggressive investigations by the U.S. Justice Department of both the Ferguson and Staten Island incidents and the handling of the Ferguson case by St. Louis County officials, and demanded that the U.S. conform to international human-rights standards on the use of force by police, citing a Nov. 28 review from the U.N. Committee Against Torture.
Green Party members have participated in and helped organize many of the rallies and protests in reaction to a steady flow of news reports about police killings of young Black men.
"The protests are not only against the killing of Mike Brown and the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Wilson, but also against a system that devalues Black and Brown lives. The Green Party believes that this deadly confluence of state violence, institutionalized racism, and militarization is a national crisis that demands systemic change," said Muhammed Malik, former Co-Chair of the Miami-Dade Green Party, who recently served on a 13-member Amnesty International human-rights delegation dispatched to Ferguson to monitor police for human rights violations. Mr. Malik worked with national Palestinian rights groups to help organize a Palestine contingent during "Ferguson October" and is currently helping to organize an action in Miami during Art Basel to demand accountability for the killing of both Mike Brown and Israel Hernandez.
In Washington, D.C., members of the D.C. Statehood Green Party joined the #DCFerguson protests, including Pete Perry, who helped organize the highway shutdowns.
See also "Police Draw Guns on Rosa Clemente, Talib & Others in Ferguson" by Rosa Clemente, 2008 Green Vice Presidential nominee, who has continued to participate in protest actions.
"St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch's handling of the Ferguson case displayed a patent lack of impartiality, with a presentation to the grand jury that in effect turned Mike Brown into the defendant without a defense attorney speaking on his behalf. The grand jury's refusal to indict Darren Wilson means that the physical evidence, testimony of witnesses, police report on the incident, and Wilson's own inconsistent and implausible account will never be subject to cross-examination, scrutiny, and comparison before a jury," said Ms. Clemente.
"Police abuses and violence aren't inevitable. Richmond, California -- with its city council under the leadership of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and Green Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, who moved to a council seat in the 2014 election -- shows that steps can be taken to break down the barriers between police and communities and prevent police from behaving like an occupying army," said Thomas Muhammad, co-chair of the Green Party Black Caucus.
"[I]n Richmond, historically one of the most violent cities in the Bay Area, the Police Department has averaged fewer than one officer-involved shooting per year since 2008, and no one has been killed by a cop since 2007." ("Use of deadly force by police disappears on Richmond streets," Contra Costa Times, Sept. 6.
Green Party activists said that, along with the kind of police-community bridge-building exemplified in Richmond, several measures are necessary:
• Recognition that a crisis exists in the U.S.: White cops harassing and killing unarmed young Black people, with one such killing every 28 hours on average. Police terror has caused a sense of fear among Blacks even in routine encounters with officers.
• Establishment of independent citizen review boards to monitor police behavior, with the power to press charges and issue subpoenas. Prosecutors like Mr. McCulloch, whose personal background and associations reveal biases that should have led him to recuse himself, must be removed from cases.
• Elimination of the sense of impunity that law enforcement officers and vigilantes enjoy when they commit harassment, assault, and extrajudicial killing of Blacks. Even routine traffic stops turn into incidents of abuse for which police are never investigated and punished. Greens called the video cameras to be worn by officers, as recommended by President Obama, a useful first step if it can deter police misbehavior.
• Guarantee of the right to protest, without retaliation by police using deadly force, riot gear, military equipment and tactics, infiltration, and provocation, as well as the right of news media to cover protest without police intimidation.
• Protection against police harassment and arrest for those who record incidents of police abuse on camera and cell phone.
• A challenge to rhetoric about Black cultural pathology, which appears frequently in media coverage of incidents like Ferguson and politicians' statements. Such rhetoric includes moral lectures that are meant to impress White Americans and maintain dehumanizing mythologies about Blacks. As Eric Dyson noted in The New York Times, Black-on-Black crime is taken as evidence of cultural dysfunction, with no mention of proportionally similar White-on-White crime.
• A massive overhaul of the U.S. justice system, addressing: unrestrained police and prosecutorial power; training of civilian police in military tactics and provision of military equipment to police departments, resulting in actions like SWAT raids for minor violations; the failed and wasteful War on Drugs; profiling and policies like "stop and frisk"; zero tolerance and mandatory sentencing, which erode judicial discretion; plea-bargain abuses; privatization of prisons and the resulting economic incentive to lock up more inmates; the death penalty, even in cases in which exculpatory evidence has surfaced.
Greens noted two major effects of these bipartisan policies: The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world; Black and Brown young people are targeted disproportionately, with gross racial disparities in arrests and sentencing.