On Saturday at 3pm, civil rights supporters from around the county, the region, and the state will join together in a sit-in on Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring to, in MCCRC organizer Elsa Lakew’s words,
show our elected officials that we will not rest until police brutality, the unlawful targeting and killing of black people, and the dangerous biases in our flawed judicial system have been sufficiently addressed.
Please join us at 3pm in Veterans Plaza in Downtown Silver Spring (map; convenient to Silver Spring Metro on the Red Line). And please our #ReclaimMLK Facebook event page to let us know you’re coming, to invite your friends, and to learn more about the issues.
The protest’s significance has grown in the light of news leaks yesterday that the Justice Department is likely not to file civil rights charges against Darren Wilson, the former police officer who shot Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. It’s crucial not to let setbacks dissuade us from protesting and organizing for change, and we mean for these sit-ins, vigils, and demonstrations to send that message not just to our politicians, but to eachother.
But we don’t just want to demand real change, but to achieve it — and to do that, we don’t just need to find strong allies for change, we need to be strong allies for change. So we’re also proud that our protest is part of a fast-growing new statewide movement. The Coalition for Justice and Equality served notice in Annapolis on Martin Luther King Day that it will be advocating concrete police reform, social justice, and opportunity equality measures in the days and weeks ahead. Just on police and criminal justice reform, here are some of the measures the coalition advocates
- reform of the “Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights” a.k.a LEOBR reform so investigations of police homicides and other abuses begin immediately and can be requested more easily;
- allowing jurisdictions to create civilian review boards with real power to investigate police, and/or appointing special prosecutors for police homicide cases.
- renewal of the “Driving While Black” Act requiring law enforcement record-keeping and reporting of motorist race in all vehicular stops;
- taking care that police ‘body cameras’ should not become another surveillance tool
The coalition is also still gathering information about the possibility of a special prosecutor’s office responsible for investigating police homicides. In addition, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition advocates…
- In the United States: passage of the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) supported by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin; a complete end to federal funding of militarized policing; Justice Department investigation of and, when necessary, intervention in police departments like those in Ferguson, New York City, Albuquerque, and Cleveland, and the police abuses they commit.
- In Maryland: going beyond marijuana decriminalization to legalizing and taxing it like alcohol.
- In Montgomery County: consideration and passage of the Local Civil Rights Restoration Act, esp. its racial profiling, surveillance, and federal immigration law enforcement provisions.
In the weeks ahead, we’ll be discussing each of these ideas in more detail.
For too long, too many of us have let Martin Luther King Day be little more than a day off, with at most a familiar quote or two to remind us why. It’s time to not just remember King, and not just quote him now and then, but to try to do what he did: compel a reluctant nation not just to talk the talk about equality before the law, but to walk the walk. It’s time to #ReclaimMLK. If you need another reason why, here’s Marion Gray-Hopkins, mother of Gary Hopkins, Jr.