The following closing remarks were delivered by Prof. Lennox Hinds, Coordinator of the International Commission of Inquiry, to the final public hearing of the Commission on the case of Sean Bell on February 6, 2021. We encourage you to read and share these stirring remarks that guide our continuing work forward:
Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters. Today marks the 18th day and the final day of public hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on racist police violence against people of African descent. These hearings have been conducted over a three week period, beginning on January 14 of this year, and ending today. On behalf of the steering committee, permit me to thank and extend our condolences to the families of victims who had to relive the pain and horrors of the senseless and unjustified and illegal executions of their loved ones. And this was done at the hands of the police here in the United States who are sworn to serve and protect, and instead they have served as executioner’s of our children and loved ones. And the victims were in all instances unarmed or posing no threat of serious bodily harm to the police, or to third persons, as attested to the fact that in most cases they were shot in the back. In the words of one family member who testified the only weapon these victims had was the color of their skin. The last words of some of the victims still ringing in our ears. I can’t breathe. Why did you shoot me? I am dying. Those are the words that ring out, that caused us unspeakable pain during these hearings.
We also extend our thanks and appreciation to the 12 commissioners representing international experts from Africa. Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean for taking time from the business and professional activities to dedicate the past three weeks to reviewing witness statements, and presiding over the hearings and listening to these heart wrenching testimonies. We thank our four rapporteurs, Professor Horace Campbell, who is presiding today, Attorney Ria Julien, Professor Priscilla Ocen and Professor Marjorie Cohn, who helped in the coordination of the testimony of the witnesses during the hearings, and who introduced the witnesses to the commissioners. We thank our outreach team who reviewed hundreds of cases of unjustified killings of Black men and women here in the United States. And because of time constraints, selected 44 of the most egregious cases for our hearings. These cases represent and are only an exemplar, only the tip of the iceberg of the systemic nature of this pandemic of racist police violence against Black people in the United States. These killings that occurred and that were heard over the past three weeks, occurred in 20 states, 33 cities across the United States and span a period of over 20 years, showing the systemic nature of the problem.
These cities were large, and they were small. They included Basel, California, Oakland, California, New Haven, Connecticut, Washington, DC, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Atlanta, Georgia, Decatur, Georgia, Snellville Georgia, Leavenworth, Kansas, Louisville, Kentucky, New Orleans, Louisiana, Baltimore, Maryland, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ferguson, Missouri, Hendersonville, North Carolina, Las Vegas, Nevada, New York, Rochester, New York, Schenectady, New York, Staten Island, New York, Cleveland, Ohio, Lima, Ohio, Rosedale, Ohio, Portland, Oregon, Arlington, Texas, Dallas, Texas, Denton, Texas, Houston, Texas, Killeen, Texas, San Antonio, Texas, South Boston, Virginia, Tacoma, Washington, and Kenosha, Wisconsin. We heard testimonies of the variety of methods used by the police in the wanton, malicious, unintentional killings of unarmed Black men, Black women, and trans and gender nonconforming Black people across the United States. The victims were shot, they were tortured with tasers, inflicting 50,000 volts of electricity into the bodies of people suffering from mental illness. Some victims were strangled, some suffocated, some were choked to death. Others were killed when the police used their vehicles as deadly weapons. In all cases, the victims were what, unarmed.
I would be remiss if I did not thank my fellow members of the steering committee, who have spent the last six months working and preparing this international commission of inquiry. In particular, we thank Anne Else, who tirelessly organized the schedules across international time zones, and three time zones in the United States to ensure that our commissioners, rapporteurs and witnesses would be able to testify. Finally, a debt of gratitude to Charlotte Kates, our IT expert, without whose assistance, we would have had chaos. The rapporteurs and commissioners will be spending the next six weeks following reviewing the transcripts and videos of the testimonies of the hearings that we have heard. They will be reviewing the reports of experts and writing a report on their findings and recommendations in a report, which will be translated into three languages, including English, will be French, and Spanish. This report will be presented to the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights to be considered and acted upon by the United Nations Human Rights Council. We also plan to release our report to other international human rights bodies, including the African Union, the inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and other international bodies. The objective is to make the United States government accountable to the world community, and to give voice to the people who have been struggling on the streets for the last six decades dealing with this problem and pandemic of police crime.
Finally, given the rhetoric of the Biden administration, we intend to present our report and findings to the White House and Justice Department, to Congress, to the Congressional Black Caucus. But most importantly, we intend to put our report and recommendations and findings into the hands of the people’s movement. We intend to arm the people who will be on the streets with the recommendations and demonstrating for the recommendations that come out of this report. Change will only come through struggle. And we will give voice to the people who have been demonstrating and who will continue to demonstrate on the streets of the United States. We thank you brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, for your time. Thank you.