Weathering a storm in front of the Department of Justice, on January 23, 2017, a small group of committed mothers and their coalition of supporters symbolically delivered a petition with 107,000 signatures. Many Americans have heard the names of Sandra Bland and Freddie Gray, but there are numerous stories of death in police custody that don’t make global headline news.
“We are not leaving until these cases are reopened,” says Dr Ishtyme Robinson. “We have lost our loved ones to genocide,” she renounced. According to Mapping Police Violence Project, 37 percent of unarmed people killed by police were African American in 2015, despite African American people being only 13 percent of the U.S. population.
The action took two years to culminate. It demands that the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DCRA) and the Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program be enforced.
Right now, law enforcement agencies that don't report deaths of people while in custody or during arrest are violating laws, which have existed since 2000. A March 2015 report from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) concludes that the current Arrest-Related Death (ARD) program — which aims to track persons who die in custody in America at the state level — typically only counts about half, at best, of all deaths in police custody, and the coverage rate may be as low as 36 percent.
The petition, addressed to the Attorney General, demands the that law enforcement agencies (LEAs) report all deaths of people while in custody. This information is crucial for proving the pervasiveness of the problem and to pass legislation that helps communities face LEAs with transparency and accountability.
“Stop the genocide forever, so the future generation can live with liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Dr Robinson lost two children to police violence. Accompanying her was Tawanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West, who died while in police custody in 2013, in Baltimore. Someone needs to be held accountable for all the families who have lost loved ones, says Jones. Several mothers spoke of their cases icluding Marion Gray-Hopkins.
The petition’s next goal was set for a million signatures. Human Rights organization, The Aafia Foundation (TAF), found by Muslims, is a steady supporter of this action.
Earlier in November, members of TAF stood with the impacted mothers in front of the U.S. Justice Department—echoing their rallying cry "Every Case Matters." TAF Chairman Baron Jamaal Musa spoke to the audience of demonstrators, regretfully reminding that the innocent blood of Black people in relationship to America is as the rain and sunlight. The explanation given for this similitude was just as water and light are needed to sustain all life forms upon the earth, America was built on the sweat, tears, and blood of Black slaves.
Addressing voices from the ultra right, who often respond to cries for justice from the Black community concerning the fatal shooting of unarmed Black men and Women by law enforcement saying, "Black on Black Crime is the real problem", Musa suggested that when a people see the lives of those who look like them are not valued by the institutions of state, in turn, they too will not value the lives of those living in their communities, nor will they value their very own lives.
Mr. Musa concluded by warning, those sitting in seats of authority giving them the power to dispense justice but who fail to do so, they too will one day stand before judgement.
Other partnering organizations that made this action a success for Every Case Matters were: 18millionrising.org, The Aafia Foundation, AFL-CIO, AMERICAblog, Amnesty International USA, Brave New Films, Coalition of Concerned Mothers, Daily Kos, Every Case Matters, Franciscan Action Network, Moral Movement Alabama, National Organization for Women (NOW), Pan-African Community Action (PACA), People Demanding Action, Progressive Congress Action Fund, RootsAction.org, Social Solutions, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, Working Families Party.