FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information Contact:
Angelia D. Bills
Vice-President of Communications
The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, Inc. is deeply disappointed in the grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson for his role in the tragic death of Michael Brown. But we are committed to work with the residents of Ferguson and the greater St. Louis region to help resolve the issues of police brutality and racial profiling to foster healing in our community.
Most critically, we want to reaffirm our commitment to nonviolent, peaceful protest. We fully support and align with Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent 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.”
Going forward, we are focused on two primary areas:
1) We know that to prevent similar tragedies in the future, we need systemic change across the nation in the area of police reform. In August, we joined a coalition of more than a dozen national civil rights organizations in issuing “A Unified Statement to Promote Reform and Stop Police Abuse” – which proposes police reforms designed to ensure greater reliance on community policing and to build police departments that better reflect the racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the communities they serve. The excessive use of force by law enforcement in our communities is unacceptable, and we must continue efforts towards widespread reform.
2) The economic disenfranchisement that grips Ferguson – and so many communities like it – demands that we work to decrease the racial, employment, and economic divides that breed so much tension and frustration. The death of Michael Brown, the ensuing protests, and the militarized police response have highlighted these divides in our community. Our movement learned long ago that the larger community cannot thrive when a part of it is weighed down by economic, employment, housing and education disparities — especially widespread unemployment of young people. We pledge to take a leadership role to address these issues in the St. Louis Community, and call on others from all walks of life to pledge to make these issues a top community priority.
We continue to coordinate efforts with a coalition of civil and human rights organizations, as well as to work in conjunction with the National Urban League, led by Marc Morial, to address these issues.
“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 a loved one much too soon. The killing of Michael Brown has also brought to light many of the unfortunate blemishes – criminal justice disparities, volatile police-community relations, unemployment and economic inequities – that tarnish our great nation and that prevent us from being the best that we can be.
“This tragedy has exposed the persistent state of emergency that grips not only Ferguson, but our nation as a whole. It’s a condition that is tied to the unjust killings of Black people and the dismal economic conditions in urban communities across America, where hope is often replaced by fear and where, for many, the American Dream has become a thing of the past.
“We keenly understand that the function of government is to uphold the rights of all citizens in every town, city, and state. The declared state of emergency in Ferguson and the surrounding St. Louis area must serve to protect both the lives and well-being of citizens and their rights to speak and assemble peacefully. Anything less is another injustice.”
The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis expresses its deepest and sincerest sympathy to the family of Michael Brown upon his fatal shooting. We join with the St. Louis County NAACP, Clergy Coalition and other organizations and an outraged community in demanding justice for the loss of this young man’s life. We expect a full, thorough, honest and ethical investigation into the facts.
Although we understand the frustration and anger of the community, we implore everyone to stop the violence and increase the peace. More violence is not the answer. The vicious cycle of crime, violence and retaliation must stop in our community.
In the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
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