(HRW) – Just days before Mother’s Day, mothers and families in the United States whose children have been killed by police stood, together with supporters of their cause, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC for a gathering termed “A Day of Action.”
One-after-another, mothers approached the microphone to share the story of their dead loved one, and how their family has been impacted.
“We have to continue to speak for our children, who are not with us any longer,” said a mother whose son was shot fatally by Baltimore City Police. She described how her son had held a dust pan, which was mistaken by police for a weapon.
Most of the families present were black and brown. It is black people who are disproportionately killed by police. That has been true for years, and remains the status quo in 2018. Our society is accustomed to filling in the blank – “No weapon was found on ——- ’s body; the only object found was ——- .” With Eric Garner, killed on State Island in New York, it was cigarettes. With Stephon Clark, shot in Sacramento, California, it was his cell phone. With Alton Sterling, fatally shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it was CDs.
Jacquelyn Johnson, mother of Kendrick Johnson, 17, found dead, wrapped in a gym mat, cried out for answers and demanded responsibility: “When is our time? Somebody has to be held accountable. So, who do we go to for accountability?”
Police are not above the law and certainly aren’t above the sworn obligation to uphold a rights-respecting institution, which vows to “protect and serve.”
Ahead of National Police Week, which starts May 13 and which converges tens of thousands of law enforcement officers on our nation’s capital, we cannot let these families’ stories go unheard. Not one more innocent life should be taken. We call on Congress to push hard for more transparency and for real accountability for law enforcement officers who use excessive force, especially unjustifiable lethal force. Ultimately, we must reform the way we use, train, and deploy police.
If not for our mothers, then for whom?