Our hearts are heavy for the loved ones of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and the wider community that continues to reel and mourn the ongoing state sanctioned killings of Black people. We renew our condemnation of the killings of Black people at the hands of police. Our calendars are too full of painful anniversaries marking the deaths and missed birthdays of too many Black lives that have been snatched away by state sanctioned violence.
Our hearts are heavy too, for the loved ones of the 5 police officers who were killed– Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Lorne Ahrens– by the actions of a lone gunman in Dallas at a Black Lives Matter protest. We echo the many groups and individuals who have decried the needless loss of life.
We are further troubled by how this unsettling turn of events has been mischaracterized by some pundits and media as a consequence of a movement that in fact began to protect lives and demand dignity. We remain vigilant of how this terrible turn of events may also contribute to the further repression of a social movement aimed at holding institutions accountable to uphold human rights. We stand with Black Lives Matter in their statement that the movement has always been about protecting and honoring life, not taking lives.
As a human rights organization that focuses on economic and social rights, it is also not lost on us that Alton Sterling patched together a living by selling CDS in a parking lot, a circumstance that echoes the context of the 2014 killing of Eric Garner at the hands of NYPD, who was selling loose cigarettes at the time of his final encounter with the police. As others have noted, the police are tasked with criminalizing whole communities to ‘manage’ the racism, poverty, and oppression produced by our country’s policies and practices, as well as plugging in the holes left behind by a crumbling social infrastructure.
Beyond the threat of untimely, extrajudicial killings at the hands of police, we know that Black life gets decimated in slower, more insidious ways too. We see it in how developers speculate on land and housing, gentrifying and profiting from the unending displacement of Black communities. We see it in the school to prison pipeline that pushes students of color out of the education system at alarming rates. In response, we echo the calls from the Dignity in Schools Campaign and other members of the National Alliance for Boys and Men of Color to “divest public expenditures in punitive systems that contributes to the criminalization of our [people], and reinvest our money back into our communities towards systems of educational, economic and restorative justice! Our city, state and federal budgets must reflect our values and we must value education and community restoration over incarceration. That this is the only way to bring real safety for all of us.”