NC NAACP, others react locally to Ferguson
Posted November 25, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina chapter of the NAACP was among a number of local groups weighing in on Monday's grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in death of Michael Brown when the unarmed teen was fatally shot more than three months ago.
NAACP President Rev. William Barber said at a news conference Tuesday morning that the decision was an "indictment and a charge against a system that is not willing to fully address the racial and discriminatory flaws that exist."
Barber railed against a judicial system that he says perpetuates discrimination and the criminalization of black men.
"It's an indictment on a district attorney who was elected to be an advocate for the people and the search of truth as opposed to an advocate for the perpetrator," Barber said of the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson. "Mike Brown's family did not have an advocate in the secret rooms of the grand jury."
Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch said the jury of nine whites and three blacks met on 25 separate days over three months, hearing more than 70 hours of testimony from about 60 witnesses, including three medical examiners and experts on blood, toxicology and firearms.
"They are the only people that have heard and examined every witness and every piece of evidence," McCullough said, adding that the jurors "poured their hearts and soul into this process."
After the announcement that Wilson would not be charged, violence erupted in the streets of St. Louis County. There were 61 arrests in Ferguson overnight, many for burglary and trespassing, and there were 21 more arrests in St. Louis, where protestors broke some store windows.
At least 14 people were injured during the violent night.
At Tuesday's news conference in Raleigh, Barber cautioned journalists in attendance about how they cover the protests.
"There is something underneath the protests. We have to deal with the fact, and we have to put this front and center," he said. "The reality of racial injustice in our system are not figments of people's imaginations. America cannot ignore the cry, the pain, the hurt."
Barber also called for reforms to the justice system that he said gives police officers "too much power." He said the NAACP and other civil rights groups are asking for reforms that will stop police abuse and require mandatory training on racial bias and the use of force. Barber also said every police officer should be required to wear cameras on their bodies to record every encounter with a civilian.
"A police officer is the only one I know that can knock on my door, hand a piece of paper to me and take my son out of my house in handcuffs and I don't do everything I can to stop him," he said. "That's power."
Elsewhere in the Triangle, others spoke out.
Protests and vigils were scheduled for Tuesday evening in downtown Durham, at CBC Plaza, and Chapel Hill, where students at the University of North Carolina gathered on campus to have their voices heard through silence.
Hundreds of students left classes at noon to gather in The Pit for what they called a "die-in." A crowd gathered to listen to speakers talk about racism in their lives, and they also lay on the ground in silence for 4.5 minutes to represent the 4.5 hours that Brown's body lay on the ground after he was killed.
Vigils were also planned Tuesday evening for Moore Square in downtown Raleigh and also at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church.
"As leaders and citizens of our community, we must not be silent," said Pullen Memorial's Rev. Nancy Petty. "What happened in Ferguson impacts everyone in this nation."
Triangle leaders say what's needed is a shift in thinking and reform of the justice system.
The NAACP and other national organizations say they want to see racial bias training for all law enforcement officers and for all officers to wear body cameras. They would also like to see the creation of a national police commission for greater oversight.