#CaravanForJustice Kicks Off in Oakland
"We are the only people who can speak for the dead. Their voices are heard through us." -- Stephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, #UKJusticeTeam
Yesterday, families of victims of police violence from the UK and from the US joined together in Oakland to launch the #CaravanForJustice. The eight day caravan, led by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and the ACLU of California, will stop in nine counties throughout California to mobilize communities of color against law enforcement violence.
The caravan began with a major victory: on October 3rd, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 953, a bill to collect, analyze, and make public all data on police stops. Authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), the bill was co-sponsored by Dignity and Power Now, the ACLU of California, PICO California, Reform California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and Youth Justice Coalition, and is a significant step towards curbing racial and identity profiling by law enforcement.
Patrisse Cullors, Truth and Reinvestment Campaign Director at the Ella Baker Center, began the #CaravanForJustice with a call to acknowledge this country's long history of racism and oppression and the need to take action to create change. "We see a cycle of violence where those who are most vulnerable are not receiving justice," she said. "We've seen communities be completely divested from, specifically poor, black and brown communities."
The #CaravanForJustice will spread a Truth and Reinvestment agenda throughout California, calling for counties to reinvest resources and funding in the communities who have been most harmed by criminalization and incarceration.
During the kick-off rally, family members of victims of police violence from the United Kingdom shared the stories of their loved ones whose lives were taken by police violence. Shaun Hall, whose brother Mark Duggan was killed by police in 2011, shared how his family has struggled to win justice for his brother since his death. That struggle was echoed byStephanie Lightfoot-Bennett, whose twin brother Leon Patterson was killed while in police custody in 1992. Watch her testimony:
Kadisha Burrell-Brown, whose brother Kingsley Burrell died after being detained by police, and Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean Rigg died in the Brixton police station, also offered testimonials about the injustices experienced by their loved ones. Marcia Rigg highlighted how people with mental health problems are often among the most vulnerable to police violence.
The #UKJusticeTeam called on the crowd to learn the names and stories of their family members, in the way that the world has learned about Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Sandra Bland, and many others.
At the conclusion of the rally, Oscar Grant's uncle, Bobby Johnson, expressed solidarity with the family members from the #UKJusticeTeam, and shared his anger at the loss of his nephew to police violence. He called the crowd to continue to take action, sharing how it was community organizing that led the state to prosecute the officer who killed Oscar Grant.
Representatives from the Anti Police-Terror Project (APTP) and Black Lives Matter-Bay Area also shared how others can join the fight to end state violence in Oakland. "Police terror happens in communities every single day," said APTP's Jeremy Williams. "And we need a mechanism to eradicate it."
The Justice Teams being launched by the #CaravanForJustice will play exactly that role in communities. Anchored by local, grassroots organizations in each county, the Justice Teams will provide vulnerable community members with the resources and training to respond effectively when police violence occurs.
One particular tool that Justice Teams will encourage communities to use is the Mobile Justice CA app, developed by the ACLU of California in partnership with the Ella Baker Center. The app is a tool for community members to record and report their interactions with law enforcement. Videos recorded through the app are automatically sent to the ACLU for review.
The app's witness function also allows people to alert other community members when law enforcement abuse is happening, so that others can come and record the incident and offer protection. "Mobile Justice CA has the potential to save black lives," said Patrisse Cullors.
The rally closed with Karissa Lewis from Black Lives Matter-Bay Area leading the crowd in a chant by Assata Shakur—watch here:
The mood at the rally was somber, as victims and family members reflected on their struggles—but also hopeful. "The #CaravanForJustice is not only about exposing, but also about empowering," said Patrisse. "It is about building power."
The #CaravanForJustice will stop in Sacramento, Stockton, Salinas, Fresno, Riverside, Orange County, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Check out the full schedule.
Photo credit: Brooke Anderson