There is still a chance for justice for Mike Brown—Obama and Holder can deliver it

Keep demanding justice.
Keep demanding justice.
Image: AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Last night, a St. Louis Grand Jury refused to indict Michael Brown’s killer, police officer Darren Wilson.

Due to failed state leadership and deep corruption in law enforcement, a dangerous police officer who brutally killed an unarmed Black teenager will walk free and remain on the Ferguson payroll—unless our national leaders act. Numerous eyewitnesses said 18-year-old Brown was brutally murdered—fatally shot more than six times as he stood with his hands in the air. Officer Wilson reportedly didn’t even check to see if the child was breathing; didn’t call an ambulance—he and other officers left Brown’s body uncovered on the street for hours.

No parent should ever experience the agony of losing a child to police violence—only to be denied justice for their devastating loss. At this unimaginably difficult time, Brown’s parents’ courage and resilience has inspired a much-needed, powerful movement to end racial profiling and systemic police violence across the country.

Now, justice for Brown lies in the hands of president Barack Obama and US attorney general Eric Holder. The Department of Justice is investigating the death and has the power and responsibility to arrest and prosecute officer Wilson under federal criminal charges.

It’s up to our national leaders to step in where Missouri’s politicians have failed, and secure justice for Brown immediately.

Following the news of non-indictment, brave community members across the country took to the streets to organize and express their legitimate moral outrage at the devastating decision and corrupt and discriminatory justice system that failed Brown and fails Black Americans—in the worst of ways—every single day.

And as we’ve seen before, mainstream media outlets spend more time unjustly criminalizing and dehumanizing protesters than they do talking about McCulloch’s reckless conduct or what should be a main focus in this moment; the nationwide human rights crisis of militarized, discriminatory police violence.

The verdict stems not from a lack of evidence, but from a coordinated effort to stack the deck. Wilson could have been arrested the day he killed Brown, but instead St. Louis Prosecutor Robert McCulloch—with Governor Nixon’s endorsement—chose to convene a grand jury without recommending any charges. In 23 years, McCulloch has never convicted a police officer for a shooting. And Governor Nixon refused to intervene despite widespread evidence of misconduct.

With Missouri in an official state of emergency and the National Guard standing by, police are cracking down on peaceful protesters just as they did in August, using armored tanks, clad in riot gear and firing bean bags, smoke bombs and tear gas at families protesting for justice. This type of two-tiered justice system that treats police as above the law is morally outrageous, deeply inhumane, and puts Black Missourians in danger of further police violence and human rights abuse.

The media and local law enforcement went to great lengths to criminalize Brown. We see the same every time a vigilante or police officer kills a black person:

  1. Law enforcement tries to justify the killing by claiming the officer acted in self-defense;
  2. the media help to hide the truth and manipulate public opinion by using dehumanizing racial stereotypes that smear the victim’s character.

The reality is, law enforcement kills Black Americans at nearly the same rate as Jim Crow era lynchings. And Brown was killed by the same discriminatory police violence that forces Black parents across the country to sit their children down and explain that, unlike their white peers, the very color of their skin is enough to make police feel “threatened.”

Ferguson is everywhere, and there are more tragedies like what happened to Brown. The ongoing calls for justice for John CrawfordEric GarnerTanisha Anderson, and so many others serve as painful reminders that those who are supposed to “serve and protect” are killing us.

This is a historic time. What president Obama and attorney general Holder do in this moment will set the tone for the future of racial profiling and police brutality in America. McCulloch and governor Nixon will say a jury has spoken and it’s time for Black folks to be quiet and disband our movement. But the vibrant movement for police accountability belies this derisive narrative. We will not sit quiet until there is accountability for Brown’s murder and an end to the nationwide crisis of police violence.

The insidious cycle of racist police violence must be stopped, and it begins with officer Wilson. As Americans, we have a moral obligation to hold our leaders accountable for ending this nightmare. We call on president Obama and attorney general Holder to define his legacy by arresting and prosecuting Officer Wilson, and affirming the value of Black lives.