I marched in my first protest ever on Saturday, June 6, in Plainfield and I cried when I saw the volume and diversity of people who turned out to show solidarity.
These marches and protests are necessary to draw attention to the issue of systemic racism and the disproportionate number of unarmed black people who have been killed by the racist conduct of the police or racist civilians. Hate kills. Silence kills. However, it is important to note that this is just the beginning. Marching and protesting is not enough. Posting in social media is also not enough. Here are some tangible things that everyone can do to make a difference: 1) Donate 2) Vote 3) Change legislation:
- Donate to organizations that are fighting systemic racism: Black Lives Matter, Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, The Bail Project. Look them up for details on their respective goals/mission statement
- Register to vote. Vote locally. Mayors and governors appoint police commissioners and judges. Elect someone who believes in equality and diversity.
- Vote for prosecutors with a fair and unbiased record.
Change Legislation to Effect Police Reforms
Disclaimer: I have had positive experiences with the Plainfield police and grateful for their community-based approach, helpfulness and courteousness. Each instance I have called them, they have been responsive and respectful. The following recommendations are directed at police forces with a history of misconduct:
Contact your local legislative representative’s office to let him/her know how critical it is to create legislation for the following:
- Repeal Qualified Immunity -- this federal law protects the police from lawsuits and holds them to a totally different standard. If you ever wonder why the police have not been charged in the brutal killings of unarmed black people, think Qualified Immunity. Every. Time. There is a bill in Congress now to repeal Qualified Immunity, but Republicans are expected to block it and they have the strong support of the police union.
- Police reforms - Change laws associated with police misconduct. No choke holds, knee to the neck, shootings unless other alternatives are explored first. Demilitarize the police. Community policing works. But understand that police unions have historically blocked any police reforms so please take the time to understand which politicians are supported by their PAC and share your views/vote them out.
- Defund police forces that have a history of misconduct. Defunding means that a percentage of monies typically set aside in a city or state budget for the police can be reallocated to communities impacted by the police or marginalized by society.
- False 911 calls on people of color considered hate crime. Governor Cuomo signed a bill into law that makes it a punishable crime. The “Karens” and “Kens” who are quick to call the cops on people of color would be subjected to arrest and time in prison. This should be nationwide but at the very least enacted in NJ.
- Repeal the No Knock law. This law requires a warrant authorizing police officers to enter premises without knocking first or announcing that they are police officers. This issue was brought to light by the recent killing of EMS worker Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky when the police broke into her apartment without knocking or announcing who they were. They were allegedly searching for someone who resided elsewhere and was already in police custody. The city of Louisville has since banned No Knock warrant, however, every state needs to prohibit it. Presently, every state except Oregon and Florida, allows no-knock warrants.
- Lastly, economic Blackout needs to be longer than a day. This is an event when all people of color are encouraged to not spend money for a day and leverage the economic vitality of the Black community to address the issue of systemic racism and police brutality towards black people. The Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955 lasted a year. It led to Montgomery’s segregation laws to be declared unconstitutional. We need a national and collective boycott of businesses and organizations that don’t support black lives, and this should be for at least a month, possibly longer.
It’s time for the Qualified Immunity to be declared unconstitutional and the murder of unarmed black people to be regarded as a crime and police/rogue citizens convicted for it. It’s time for equality. It’s time for the end of systemic racism. The murders have been televised. The time for change is Now!