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Black Activists Present Policy Demands In Campaign Zero
Since rising to national prominence after Michael Brown was shot and killed by a White police officer last year in Ferguson, Missouri, the powerful Black Lives Matter movement has been criticized as a leaderless crusade that cannot progress without a list of demands or policies.
Last week, when confronted by Black Lives Matters activists from Massachusetts, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton challenged them to present a list of demands, saying, “here is what we want done about it.”
Toward that end, a group of activists affiliated with the movement have released an agenda of policies called Campaign Zero.
Launched by We The Protesters, its aim is to “end police violence in America.” Among other things, the demands call for ending broken windows policing, limiting police use of force, and demanding independent investigations of police shootings and other crimes.
Activist DeRay Mckesson tells NewsOne that the policy agenda, developed over several months, is an amalgam of demands from protesters across the country. Mckesson is part of the planning team for Campaign Zero. Other members are Samuel Sinyangwe, Brittany Packnett, and Johnetta “Netta” Elzie.
“The protest base has had demands all along, and what we did was to look at demands from across the country, narrowed them down to common themes, and also looked at some of the best research out there on how to end police violence and so forth,” he said. “So what you see is Campaign Zero.”
He says activists plan to engage presidential candidates on the demands, which span all levels of government.
“If you look at the site, you will see there are three sections: local, state, and federal,” he said. “We plan to work at all levels because there is no one strategy to get to zero.”
Sinyangwe told NewsOne that Campaign Zero is important because it “brings together best practices, the best research, best knowledge from community activists and organizers across the country, and then puts that together into a clear comprehensive package of policy changes that we need to help end police violence in America.” The research includes President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Task Forcereport, which includes a number of steps to improve policing in the country, he said, noting that Packnett was a member of the task force.
With regard to how they plan to advance their policy agenda, Sinyangwe said, “Some [steps] will [include] talks with elected officials and proposing specific things,” he said. “Other things will be putting pressure on those officials to take action in a very public way. I can’t speak to which strategies will be used by whom, but I know that all of them have been important and will continue to be important.”
When asked about the grid that compares presidential candidates’ positions on Campaign Zero policies,Elzie told NewsOne that it’s hard to determine which candidates align best with the guidelines.
“We’re not endorsing or supporting any one candidate,” she said, “but Democratic candidates [Massachusetts Gov. Martin] O’Malley and [Vermont Sen. Bernie] Sanders appear to have addressed more of the issues that affect Black communities in America. [Former Florida Gov. Jeb] Bush and [real estate mogul Donald] Trump have said nothing.”
Here are the demands from Campaign Zero:
End broken windows policing: The practice “has led to the criminalization and over-policing of communities of color and excessive force in otherwise harmless situations.”
Begin community oversight: Investigations of police misconduct are usually conducted internally. As a result, officers’ colleagues get to determine “what, if any, consequences their fellow officers should face.”
Limit police use of force: Officers should possess “skills and cultural competence to protect and serve our communities without killing people – just as police do in England, Germany, Japan, and other developed countries.”
Conduct independent investigations and prosecutions: “Local prosecutors rely on local police departments to gather the evidence and testimony they need to successfully prosecute criminals.”
Increase community representation: This section calls on the police departments to diversify their ranks. “While White men represent less than one-third of the U.S. population, they comprise about two-thirds of U.S. police officers.”
Film police at work: “While they are not a cure-all, body cameras and cell phone video have illuminated cases of police violence and have shown to be important tools for holding officers accountable.”
Improve police training: “The current training regime for police officers fails to effectively teach them how to interact with our communities in a way that protects and preserves life.”
End policing for profit: Activists call for police departments to ban officials from using “ticket or arrest quotas to evaluate the performance of police officers.”
Demilitarize police forces: “The events in Ferguson have introduced the nation to the ways that local police departments can misuse military weaponry to intimidate and repress communities.”
Revamp police union contracts: “Police unions have used their influence to establish unfair protections for police officers in their contracts with local, state, and federal government and in statewide Law Enforcement Officers’ Bills of Rights.”
What do you think of Campaign Zero? Sound off in the comments…