ishop T. Larry Kirkland, Chair, Commission on Publications
The Reverend Dr. Johnny Barbour, Jr., Publisher
The Reverend Dr. Calvin H. Sydnor III, the 20th Editor, The Christian Recorder
The Christian Recorder News Break – Statement - Social Action Commission African Methodist Episcopal Church Grand Jury Decision Regarding Killing of Eric Garner
December 3, 2014
Last week many of us were disappointed and angered by the failure of the grand jury in St. Louis County, Missouri to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown.
This week we are disappointed and angered again by the failure of the grand jury in Staten Island, New York to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner. What makes this decision by the grand jury more insulting and unbelievable is that there is a video which recorded and showed the activities of the officer and Mr. Garner. Officer Pantaleo choked Mr. Garner, an action prohibited by the New York Police Department. Further, the coroner in New York ruled Mr. Garner’s death a homicide, caused by choking. With the video, NYPD prohibition against choking and the coroner’s ruling, the grand jury still decided not to indict Officer Pantaleo.
The decision by the grand jury in both the Brown and Garner cases sends a clear and consistent message that black lives don’t matter. There is no other explanation, and blacks should get the message and be outraged. Police are not indicted when there are witnesses, and they are not indicted when there is a video. What more evidence do you need?
In the past month alone we have also seen 27 year old, Akai Gurley, unarmed and doing nothing illegal or inappropriate, shot and killed, by a New York Police officer in a stairwell, because it was dark and he was scared, also 12 year old Tamir Rice shot and killed by police in a Cleveland Park because he had a pellet gun.
Enough is enough!
All the excuses and explanations are inadequate. Police are not held accountable for the shooting and killing of black males. It is time for the United States to face and confront the reality that the justice system does not work for Blacks. It is also time for Black Americans to stop talking and being angry, but to make the effort to change the system.
The Social Action Commission of the AME Church will reach out to our Ecumenical partners, the NAACP and other organizations to seek to reform our criminal justice system. Specifically, the SAC will be proposing and pushing legislation to require the appointment of a Special Prosecutor in any case where the actions and involvement of police is questioned. Under the current system these cases are handled by county prosecutors, who work closely with local police every day. It is clear that county prosecutors are not able to be objective when it comes to the police they work with every day. This is why in both Ferguson, Missouri and New York City county prosecutors did not seek indictments from grand juries. The current system does not work and must be changed. We will lead the effort to change it.
Black lives do matter, and we must stop what has become a consistent pattern of killing unarmed blacks, then expressing remorse, justifying their actions by saying they “feared for their lives.” Justice demands that we act, and act now.
Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Chair, AMEC Social Action Commission