The picture here is one that I took on Thursday evening of New York City Councilmembers Brad Lander and Antonio Reynoso standing with Kimberly Ballinger, whose domestic partner Akai Gurley was shot and killed by a police officer coming downstairs of the Pink House Project on November 20.
Later that evening, as the Local Progress Board Chair, I had the honor of welcoming electeds and advocates to the 2014 Local Progress convening in NYC. Local Progress is the organization of hundreds of local officials from around the country that I and others created in 2012. I had the idea for this organization after I led the Council to adopt Resolution 31337 which recognized the national grassroots citizen effort being made through the Occupy Movement to seek solutions for economically distressed Americans at the federal and local levels. I strongly felt, as local elected representatives, we had to find ways to address our nation’s growing disparity in wealth and income.
This year’s convening included topics ranging from workers’ rights, to criminal justice reform, to affordable housing, to immigrant rights, to climate change, and public education. But firmly in the backdrop of everything was the decision of two separate grand juries to not indict the police officers that killed Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island. Here is the text of a letter that Local Progress has prepared both recognizing local government’s responsibility to act but also calling on the Federal government to use their full powers to ensure that cities around the country end discriminatory policing practices:
I stand with Eric Garner. I stand with Michael Brown. I stand with Tamir Rice. I stand with Tanesha Anderson. I stand with Akai Gurley. I stand with the countless black men, women, and children named and unnamed who have been subjected to state-sanctioned violence all across this country. I stand with the multitudes who are mobilizing and saying “enough is enough.”
As we continue to witness the devaluation of black life and a justice system that fails to hold law enforcement accountable, I stand with the young black leaders and other activists nationwide demanding that local police forces stop discriminating on the basis of race. I share their conviction that all lives matter.
I stand against the excessive use of force with impunity. I stand for equal justice under the law.
As a public official elected to represent my community, I recognize my unique responsibility for ensuring that our law enforcement system values all lives, treats all residents fairly, protects everyone’s safety, respects everyone’s civil liberties, and promotes our shared human dignity. In the wake of these tragic killings and miscarriages of justice, I reaffirm my commitment to advancing this vision for equal justice under law.
I recognize that local government must take action. I also recognize that the Federal government has a role to play in ensuring that local governments and local police forces are advancing these values. I call on Congress, the Department of Justice, and the President to use their full powers to ensure that cities around the country end discriminatory policing practices and replace them with programs that respect and empower residents and help us build a more just and equitable society.