Civil Rights and Racial Justice Organizations Denounce Police Murders of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo
WASHINGTON –It is with deep anguish that our organizations remember Daunte Wright of Brooklyn Center, MN and Adam Toledo of Chicago, IL, the two young lives most recently taken by our nation’s ongoing police brutality and violence. As devastating events that have become all-too familiar headlines, we collectively denounce the police violence that has yet again torn apart the very families and communities that law enforcement is tasked with keeping safe. Mere miles away from George Floyd’s murder, we are horrified to witness the new heights of brazenness reached by officers sworn to uphold our nation’s laws. But our horror is not shaded by shock or surprise, for communities of color well know that these events are carried out under the cover of a justice system steeped in a legacy of white supremacy.
Each of these murders highlight the various ways that current notions of “public safety” and “due process” have not only failed communities of color, but also directly contravene the American cornerstone of “innocent until proven guilty.” It is within this context that police officers have been allowed to act as judge and jury while even just making a routine traffic stop. From beginning to end, the events that lead to Mr. Wright’s death remain consistent with the pervasive racism that has come to characterize our nation’s policing practices and structures.
Data collected nationwide, including from St. Paul, MN, has revealed that Black drivers are more frequently stopped than white drivers, twice as likely to be searched and three times as likely to be subjected to use of force. The state of Minnesota alone has been the site of numerous headline police killings of Black men: from Jamar Clark (2015), to Philando Castille (2016), to George Floyd (2020). Other data reveals similarly disproportionate police violence against other communities of color in Minnesota, notably Native Americans. Taken together, this litany of police killings exemplifies yet another outgrowth of the outsized authority wielded by law enforcement: the criminalization of poverty among people of color. It is not enough that police practices disproportionately kill Black, Brown, and Indigenous individuals; they often do so under pretexts of what is essentially debt collection. Our very justice systems have been deployed so as to criminalize poverty among people of color to such a degree that a simple missing tag or expired registration are elevated to criminal infractions requiring monetary solutions that cause a knock-on effect of escalated fines, fees, and – for communities of color – situations where bodily harm or death occur with alarming regularity.
It is this systematization of racism and criminality in the name of “justice” that also informed the deadly encounter between Chicago police and 13-year-old Adam Toledo. Worse still, the allegiance to structures that set the stage for the shooting of a Latino minor with empty hands raised also works overtime to turn victims into scapegoats. The evolution of the City of Chicago’s narrative of this encounter demonstrates the extent to which leaders and public officials have become complicit in the upholding of systems that use innocent lives as collateral and decimate communities en masse. It is because of these realities that no such encounter may ever be taken in isolation; for it is the extended history of fundamentally racist budget priorities, community investment decisions that prioritize law enforcement, and allocation of authorities that truly contextualize the circumstances of Toledo’s death.
America has reached a crescendo. The crescendo is framed by a seemingly permissible level of baseline violence perpetuated against communities of color. The Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative has commented previously on the murder of George Floyd, the paltry accountability for the death of Breonna Taylor, admonishing the deeply alarming rise in hate crimes and negligible federal response, and specifically, crimes perpetuated against Asian Americans,—most recently the ghastly shootings in Atlanta.
Sadly, we are now adding multiple families and communities to the collateral consequences of American policing. Another child is left without a father, and a mother has had her 13-year-old child’s life taken from her. Families are not able to mourn in private, nor tell stories about their loved ones that are not coopted by the media. They are faced with the usage of images and videos from these traumatic events flooding the air waves, and if there’s a trial, painstaking viewing in great detail of the event. And yet, without video evidence, including from body worn camera footage, these deaths would have been silenced.
And the public is asking salient questions which need immediate answers in order to hold our police accountable. Why do we need tasers for traffic stops? Or even police patrolling drivers? What if instead of sending cops for a broken tail late, we sent a repair truck? Why do police wear body worn cameras but do not activate them, analyze the audio and video data for bias, nor share most data with the public for civilian review? Can a system which evolved from slave patrols, thereby embedding anti Blackness into its core be something equitable? What these questions boil down to is the need for systemic change. For training one officer, or one jurisdiction has not brought the change we seek – the preservation of Black lives and the freedom to live freely in our communities without the constant threat of violence by the state.
We applaud Attorney General Merrick Garland’s reestablishment of consent decrees intended to hold police departments accountable. And yet, even with these in place, departments have not made substantive enough changes to save lives, as we are still witnessing police in their ranks commit violence and murders against people of color. This is set against a backdrop of the public health crisis of gun violence in America. In addition, we call your attention to our ongoing set of demands in response to police violence and murders perpetrated against communities of color:
- Advance federal policy that creates supportive services to communities, community services that are culturally competent and delivered by and for community members, as a first response mechanism to non-urgent, low-priority and quality of life incidents;
- Eliminate qualified immunity and any other laws that prevent the full prosecution of state and local police and corrections officers;
- Body worn camera policies – ensure they are on, that the audio and video data collected is analyzed for bias and inequity, and released to the public for citizen review and accountability;
- Heed calls for reinvesting local and state resources in non-policing forms of public safety and community support;
- President Biden’s appointment of a federal law enforcement commission to conduct to examine the murders of Duante Wright and Adam Toledo;
- Congressional oversight hearings, at least annually, to review the status of the implementation of the Death in Custody Reporting Act to compel the collection, reporting and analysis of all deaths, by race and gender, that occur in law enforcement custody, including any that occur while a person is being detained or arrested;
- Federal, state, and local governments to issue states of emergency declaring racism a public health crisis, and to develop targeted policies to address this crisis; and
- All Americans to commit to working with us to dismantle systemic racism that have enabled this scourge of race-based violence to grow unabated.
# # #
Advancement Project National Office, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Demos, Faith in Action, NAACP, National Congress of American Indians, National Urban League, Race Forward, and UnidosUS are a collaborative of nine leading national racial equity anchor organizations (the Anchors) supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Together, we work to promote racial equity, advance racial healing, and ensure that all children, families, and communities have opportunities to reach their full potential.