The current state of the country needed this shake. The inequality and injustice that blacks are enduring has been going on for centuries. We’ve seen many of our black and brown boys and girls lives taken away for the color of their skin by the superiority of whites and cops. In our most recent events as we continue to undergo a global pandemic, the lives of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have been taken away by cops and racist bigots. The painful deaths of these innocent individuals has united our community together to say “We are beyond tired of the bullshit. Changes need to happen in our justice system today or today.” In our efforts of uniting, all 50 states of the U.S.A and countries outside of the U.S have protested in honor of Floyd, Taylor and Arbery; our corrupt justice system; systematic racism and police brutality.
As many have been protesting for the past week, many people have been arrested, shot with rubber bullets, shoved on concrete by the extensive force of police officers, and so much more. While protest and the fight for black lives matter continues, there are some lawful actions we can take and that we need to be aware of as we continue to fight on the front lines.
Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with attorney Durante Partridge on legal actions we should take if stopped by the police, properly exercising our first amendment during protest, and the importance of the bearing of arms during these times.
As a black attorney, what are your thoughts about the little to none conviction rate of police officers killing/physically violating unarmed citizens?
I’ll be honest with you, I think it’s horrible. I was a former prosecutor. That was one of the reasons why I left the DA’s office so I can practice criminal defense and do more for our community. I think one of the biggest issues with the officers not being convicted is qualified immunity, which protects officers from civil suits. Many local officials, lawyers and politicians are asking legislation to do away with the law, but with qualified immunity the police are protected as long as they have some reasonable justification to explain why they acted the way they have. I think that’s why we are seeing the non-conviction trend of police officers.
I think another issue with that too is the relationship between prosecutors and law enforcement. They obviously work together. When someone’s arrested the police hands it off to the prosecutor for the prosecutor to lawyer that case and they maintain that close knit relationship. For example, we’ve seen that recently in Atlanta with the officers being arrested and Paul Howard Jr., District Attorney of Fulton County, deciding to issue warrants for them and Chief Shields stating she was blind sighted by that move.
What is the most important thing that we as citizens need to pay attention to from a legal perspective on hate crimes?
Let me start off by saying this, GA does not have a hate crime law or statue. That’s the first thing as Georgians we need to do is enact some sort of law for that. Looking at hate crimes overall, it is important for us to look at the intent of the actions. Are they acting or impending on someone based on their gender, race, sexuality, and more? We heard in the Ahmaud Arbery preliminary hearing that the Travis McMichael called him a “fucking nigger” right after he shot him. That’s evidence that there was clear intent of hatred because he used a racial derogatory slur after he killed him. Next we need to look at how the person is acting. If it’s a white officer who’s detaining or arresting a person of color, are they using different coded language/actions? That’s something we need to pay attention to as well.
What are 5 Key Legal actions that citizens should take when being stopped by the police?
Make sure your record is straight; you don’t have any busted tail lights; your license, insurance and registration is in tack.
Be in compliance. If they ask you to pull over, pull over.
Stay calm. When they pull you over and they are asking you questions, remain calm the entire time. In most cases, black people are pulled over for racial profiling. In those situations remain calm. I’m not saying lay down or give up rights. I’m saying remain calm and survive the encounter.
Document/record everything. If you don’t have one now, go get a phone mount and record everything. It can be a video or even an audio recording. Make sure you document everything. Soon as you pull over, hit the record button on your phone. We have the right to record things as long as it is lawfully. This is extremely helpful when filing complaints and reporting the mistreatment of officers on others.
If you have passengers in your vehicle, make sure you maintain control of the conversation with the officer. Unless the officer is asking for the passenger identification, only you interact with the officer.
I know the first amendment is the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to petition the government. I’ve seen and heard many say we have to “properly” exercise our first amendment. What does that mean and look like for the people in our community?
Fourth, as using our first amendment, everyone has that right as long as we are not bound by contract or non disclosure. I would encourage the people to continue to voice their concern about the issues and changes we need made in our community. I think we need to continue to push the envelope and push forward.
There’s a big debate about the second amendment. How can our community properly exercise that right too?
We need to be knowledgeable about it. I think that’s a part of the problem. We are not knowledgeable about it. You know we’ve been stereotyped if we have guns as thugs/trouble along those lines. We have to equip ourselves with knowledge. We need to make sure we are going through the proper channels to get our carry conceal licenses. It doesn’t hurt to get training or join some of these black gun organizations as well such as the National African American Gun Association.
How would you advise us to move next to protect our rights as black people?
Here’s the thing I’m a huge fan of social media and the voice it has acclimated during these times. We need to continue to be active on social media and be on top of the issues. Secondly, we need to get out and vote. I’m not talking about just voting during the primaries but voting during the local elections is very vital. Your local officials like your district attorney’s, your judges, state congress, senate and house representatives are controlling policies that affect you directly. Most importantly continue to fight.
Words by: Kinyana Mccoy