On Monday night, U.S. Congressmen took the now famous ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ gesture to the floor of the House of Representatives.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) took the lead in the first of a series of speeches given by the Congressional Black Caucus. He made the gesture as he began, saying:
‘Hands Up — Don’t Shoot’ is a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence in community after community after community … in Ferguson, in Brooklyn, in Cleveland, in Oakland, in cities and counties and rural communities all across America.
Congressmen take up new ‘rallying cry’ for America.
Jeffries was introducing an hour-long presentation by the Congressional Black Caucus called ‘Black In America’. Rep. Al Green (D-TX) followed at the podium, also making the ‘Hands Up, Don’t Shoot’ gesture. He spoke of the St. Louis Rams’ controversial effort in repeating the gesture at Sunday night’s game. Green called it “a new symbol, a new statement.”
Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) repeated the symbol, saying:
The Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict former officer Darren Wilson was yet another slap in our face. It was another painful reminder that just like with Trayvon Martin, and Tamir Rice, and so many others, that law enforcement officers kill our black and brown boys without repercussions.
The caucus issued a call for a new discussion on race in America, with Congress stepping up to take the lead to find answers rather than running away from the issue. As Fudge also said:
If we are to learn anything from the tragic death of Michael Brown, we must first acknowledge that we have a race issue we are not addressing.
Many have referred to Michael Brown’s death and subsequent events in Ferguson, Missouri as the beginning of a new civil rights movement. The last great Civil Rights Movement also was born out of America’s determination to ignore racial injustice while countless young black men died at the hands of whites.
The first trial of the previous movement was for the 1955 torture and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till by a group of white men in Money, Mississippi. His alleged ‘crime’ was flirting with a white woman. The two men taken to trial for the murder were acquitted. Protected against double jeopardy (retrial), the men then admitted — or bragged — to Look magazine that they killed the child.
A new civil rights movement has powerful voices to issue the rallying cry.
A new Civil Rights Movement has an advantage that the last one didn’t — black officials in elected positions and black celebrities with the ability to make themselves widely heard. Now it also has a powerful symbol— Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.
Before the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed, black congressmen were virtually non-existent. The Congressional Black Caucus wasn’t formed until 1969. Now, members like Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) have long held leadership positions.
The backlash against the congressmen’s Monday night action has, of course, been immediate. MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, called the gesture ‘a lie’ because it implies the police shoot people who have their hands in the air. The St. Louis Police Officers’ Association described Sunday night’s action by the St. Louis Rams as “way out-of-bounds.”
But to believe that policemen never abuse their power, especially in regard to minorities, is to live in a fool’s paradise. On the contrary, such is the history of being black in America. If former Officer Darren Wilson is innocent of the murder of Michael Brown, then let the evidence be presented — first to a newly-called grand jury whose composition reflects the community, by a specially-appointed prosecutor free of known biases — then, if deemed appropriate, to a judge and jury.
Too often, justice seems a white man’s dream — blacks, Latinos, women need not apply. There has been a crying need for someone with a megaphone to step up and insist on a new perspective with a search for new answers. The Congressional Black Caucus has just taken the lead.
You can watch the video in the House here: