In response, King drafted a document of his own, called The Negro is Your Brother (also known as the Letter from Birmingham Jail),which not only asserted that nonviolent direct action was needed but very necessary in the face of unjust laws.
On January 15th 2010 - the birthdate of the late King Jr. - members of the Askia Coalition Against Police Brutality (ACAPB) held The People's Tribunal, which sought to hold public officials and the police responsible for unlawful practices and offenses committed by law enforcement officers against the citizens of Philadelphia.
Read more and listen to audio clips after the jump:
The Tribunal organizer's are hoping to use the evidence collected to pressure city, state, federal as well as international institutions such as the United Nations to stop unlawful and racial profiling practices currently used by law enforcement in the United States and if necessary, to pursue legal action against law enforcement officials and their affiliates who engage in these unlawful practices.
Listen as Shesheena Bray, member of ACAPB, and Sobukwe Bambataa, moderator for the proceedings, further discuss the goals and mission of the Tribunal.
Listen as Tahira Pollard, resident of Philly, shares with the Tribunal her unfortunate encounter with an abusive police officer:
What was Sabur's crime?
Hanging out with family members outside of a takeout restaurant while waiting for his food.
Listen as Abdus Sabur, father of Askia, give his emotional testimony to the Tribunal about the impact the police beating has had on his son:
Recently, The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, along with the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing & Feinberg, filed a federal class action suit on behalf of eight African-American and Latino men (including Pennsylvania State Rep. Jewell Williams), who had been stopped and harassed by Philadelphia police officers solely on the basis of their race or ethnicity.
The suit itself centers around the Philadelphia Police Department's controversial practice known as Stop-And-Frisk. The stop-and-frisk policy began as a campaign promise in 2007 by then-mayoral candidate Michael Nutter, as a solution to the city's homocide rate. However, many civil rights and community groups had raised concerns that the policy, which allows officers to stop, detain and search individuals, who appear to be reasonably suspicious of criminal activity, was unfairly targeting communities of color.
Recent city data has suggested that the stop-and-frisk policy is not only ineffective in stopping crime but has in fact contributed to racial profiling. According to the data, out of the 253,333 stops in 2009, an overwhelming 183,000, or 72.2 percent, were African-Americans. Only 8.4% of the 253,333 stops actually led to an arrest.
Listen as Annette Dickerson, attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, shares with the Tribunal infomation about the use of stop-and-frisk in New York City and the efforts it has taken, and continues to take, to reveal racial profiling in that city's department:
As I suggested in a piece written for the Atlanta Post, we need to prioritize the issue of police brutality and misconduct on the same level nationally as we do healthcare, jobs and education. To quote myself:
"Time and time again, we witness incidents of police using excessive force against not only the resisting alleged offender but also those who offer little resistance. From the elderly grandmother to students, blacks and whites – no one is spared. Of course, the vast majority of interactions between Joe-citizens and law enforcement do not lead to brutality and/or misconduct. But when it does, those incidents are disturbing enough that many folks, from all walks of life, have come to view law enforcement officials as no different than the criminals that they are suppose to serve and protect us from."
Attending the Tribunal reaffirmed for me the need to organize nationally, in hopes of making the police brutality a political issue. Folks around the country should be organizing in their respective communities the same way in which members of the Askia Coaltion Against Police Brutality had, to not just rallies against police abuse and misconduct but documenting incidences of police brutality and abuse, filing lawsuits and holding the elected officials and departments themselves accountable. Not to bring Obama into this but what is the point of having a Black president, who ran on the platform of hope and change, if we can't use the momentum to bring about actual progress? And without a clear and political agenda, folks will continue to be isolated in fighting against rampant abuses on their own.
So while we all take our day off from work and school to honor Martin Luther King Jr., let's reflect on the very real struggles that continue today. To paraphrase the late great King, police brutality will backfire and one way or the other, those bastards will reap what they sow: