The Hill invited Jamal Bryant, pastor of the Empowerment Temple in Baltimore, and a leader of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, to submit an opinion piece on the recent police-involved shootings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota. While time did not permit him to write, he agreed to answer some questions.
What was your reaction to the video from Minnesota showing the aftermath of the shooting of Philando Castile?
“I think that most of Black America is just in shock therapy, it’s like a wound that you keep ripping the Band-Aid off. As a Baltimorean, you have to safeguard from becoming cynical to say to yourself, ‘Well, here comes another case in which nobody will be held accountable.’
It’s in the backdrop of what looks like nobody will pay the cost for Freddie Gray’s death. And in this whole ‘Black Lives Matter’ journey, we’ve not seen a victory from the judicial system. And so, you just keep getting pummeled. Then, to have to face that reality in Baton Rouge, then turn around and see it in Minneapolis is disheartening.”
Does it matter to you what the circumstances were that have led to these police-involved shootings?
“Let’s look at it. Consider Tamir Rice, who was 12 years old, had absolutely no weapon, it’s broad daylight. Michael Brown was in the middle of the street. Trayvon Martin, while he (George Zimmerman) was not a police officer, you’re still dealing with somebody who’s in security, whether volunteer or otherwise. You’ve got Freddie Gray, who’s crime is riding a bicycle. You have Eric Garner, in broad daylight, in front of a crowd of witnesses. And now, we find ourselves in Baton Rouge, so the variables are pretty much the same. And the outcome, regrettably, is embarrassingly the same.”
Do you feel like these two incidents, which were graphically caught on camera, will help the conversation on police-minority relations to finally turn a corner?
“I don’t think so. While I applaud the President for making a speech, I really wanted to hear a directive to the Justice Department that, while they can investigate 3,000 emails of Hillary Clinton on a private server, at this point, we see that it is not instances as it is systematic to a system that is fractured and broken.
So, I think there needs to be a complete overhaul of the Justice Department. Because we’re seeing that it’s not just a Southern issue. It’s not just the Northeastern corridor, but it is now an American issue that calls for a complete redress of training, and sensitivity about how law enforcement handles minorities.”
President Obama addressed the shooting Thursday night after his arrival in Poland, and spoke for about 10 minutes. What was your reaction to the his statement?
“I think it was absolutely great. It was a powerful stand by the President, very affirming to those of us who are in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement. But I hope that he will take that next step. Just as he felt compelled to go to Orlando, I hope that he’ll make his way to Baton Rouge, or to Minneapolis, and see about these families that are grieving as well.”
What would you like to see Congress do to help stop police involved violence and improve relations with the minority community?
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SOURCE: The Hill – Bill Rehkopf