RALEIGH, N.C. — The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is joining other civil rights groups and the community in calling for an end to over-policing and police violence after the police killings this month of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn., and Darryl Tyree Williams in Raleigh.
Nichols was beat to death by police on Jan. 10, 2023. Williams was tased and killed by Raleigh Police Department officers on Jan. 17, 2023.
Black and Brown people deserve to be empowered and protected, not harassed, traumatized, and killed by the police forces their tax dollars fund.
“We stand in solidarity with the Nichols and Williams families as well as many others who have lost family and community members to police violence,” said Tanita Holmes, Counsel for Justice System Reform at Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ). “We’re disheartened and disappointed that we still have to address this kind of senseless violence. We, like the other organizations we stand with, demand transparency and police accountability and we won’t rest until we have both.”
SCSJ echoes the community and Emancipate NC’s demands for accountability and meaningful oversight. Moreover, we support the reallocation of funds to invest in community services and alternatives to policing and incarceration.
The over-policing of Black and Brown communities is often a result of so-called ‘proactive policing,’ a broad term for efforts to prevent crimes before they occur. When law enforcement officials ‘proactively police,’ they increase their presence and surveillance in certain areas, which are disproportionately located in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
The Memphis Police Department SCORPION unit responsible for Nichols’s murder was a ‘proactive policing’ effort and it has now been disbanded in response.
The Raleigh Police Department officers who killed Williams were also engaging in ‘proactive policing’ when they approached his parked car. Simply sitting in a parked vehicle, regardless of the time of day, is not reason to believe a crime is being or will be committed. As we have seen, ‘proactive policing’ is often used as a pretext to approach Black and Brown people under a presumption of criminality.
According to their report, officers tased Williams twice using “drive-stun mode” while he was on the ground; minutes later, he was unresponsive. While the courts have long recognized the intense pain and medical risks associated with taser use, the United States Supreme Court, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and North Carolina courts have all failed to establish a clear standard for when their use amounts to excessive force.
It is high time the courts take decisive action to protect the civil and human rights of Black and Brown people and hold the police officers that violate them liable.
Protests demanding change erupted across the country when George Floyd was killed in May 2020, yet 1,176 more lives were lost to police violence in 2022. On Saturday, January 28, 2023, community members and organizers gathered again at the Wake County Courthouse to kick off a protest against police violence.
Protestors marched for three miles, stopping every so often to hear community leaders, young and old, speak about the history of over-policing and brutality that has traumatized Black individuals for centuries.
The march was part of another wave protests across the country after officials in Memphis, Tennessee, released footage of police officers brutally killing Nichols. Community members are still waiting for bodycam and other video footage of Williams’s killing.
Community members are encouraged to get involved and can stay up-to-date on news and events via Emancipate NC’s website and social media.
The Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at southerncoalition.org and follow our work on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.