Michael Brown Hearing – January 29, 2021, 10 am Eastern
Transcript: Hearing on the Case of Michael Brown
- Rapporteur Ria Julien
- Commissioner Ms. Hina Jilani
- Commissioner Prof. Niloufer Bhagwat
- Ms. Lezley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown
- Attorney Jasmine Rand
- Attorney Ben Crump
- Nabeha Shaer, law student
- Chad Steen, law student
Ria Julien 00:00
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the hearings of the International Commission of Inquiry on systemic racist police violence against people of African descent in the United States. These hearings are a process by which witnesses can present accounts of the unjustified killings and maimings of Black people, by police officers in the United States before an international panel of human rights experts. We now begin the hearing in the case of Michael Brown. My name is Ria Julien, and I am the rapporteur for this hearing. Presiding over the hearing today is Commissioner Niloufer Bhagwat of India and Commissioner Hina Jilani of Pakistan. The witnesses for this hearing are attorneys Benjamin Crump and Jasmine Rand, as well as the mother of the deceased, the victim Michael Brown, Ms. Lezley McSpadden will be joining us shortly into the hearing. There will be 50 minutes for this hearing. Witnesses will testify followed by a period of questions from commissioners. I will call time at the 30 minute mark and the 45 minute mark. Please excuse My interruptions, commissioners Bhagwat and Jilani. I now present to you your first witness, and Mr. Crump or Ms Rand, who would prefer to begin?
Jasmine Rand 01:31
I will be presenting but do we need to be sworn in as we were in the other hearings?
Ria Julien 01:35
Yes, I will swear you in at this time. Okay.
Jasmine Rand 01:37
And then I also just wanted to put on record that we have our law students and law advocates that have prepared the case with us and Nabeha Shaer on the line as well as Chad Steen, and they will not be presenting on the facts of the case. But they will be speaking to violence against journalists and some systemic reform that came from the Michael Brown case. I’m not sure whether we would need to swear them in as well.
Ria Julien 01:59
Yes, please let me just swear you in before you proceed to to speak and give your presentation. I’ll swear in Attorney Rand. Miss Jasmine Rand, please confirm your name.
Jasmine Rand 02:13
Ria Julien 02:15
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Jasmine Rand 02:20
Yes, I do.
Ria Julien 02:21
You may begin.
Jasmine Rand 02:23
Did we want to swear in? We’re gonna go back and forth a bit. So could we swear Attorney Crump and the students as well? I’m sorry.
Ria Julien 02:29
Yes, very good. Benjamin Crump. Please confirm your name.
Benjamin Crump 02:35
I’m Benjamin Crump.
Ria Julien 02:37
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Benjamin Crump 02:43
Yes, it will.
Ria Julien 02:45
Nabeha Shaer, Please confirm your name.
Nabeha Shaer 02:49
My name is Nabeha Shaer.
Ria Julien 02:51
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Nabeha Shaer 02:56
Yes, it will.
Ria Julien 02:58
And Chad Steen, please confirm your name.
Chad Steen 03:01
My name is Chad Steen.
Ria Julien 03:03
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to to the best of your knowledge and belief?
Chad Steen 03:10
Ria Julien 03:11
Very good. Please proceed.
Jasmine Rand 03:14
Hands up, don’t shoot. Hands up, don’t shoot became the battle cry of Black Lives Matter protesters throughout our country and throughout the world protesting the injustice of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9 2014. Before I proceed with the specific facts of the case, I think it’s important to acknowledge the historical context in the city of Ferguson where the shooting took place. When the United States Department of Justice conducted their investigation, not specifically into the shooting, but into the pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing and racial bias in the city of Ferguson.
One thing they noted was that this was called the sundown city. Ferguson was known as the sundown city because not so many decades ago, black people and white people were literally segregated and physically separated into two separate parts of the city. Black people were relegated to a relatively poor neighborhood. And were allowed to go only into the white sections of the city to service the homes of rich people. They’re allowed to be maids. They were allowed to be drivers they were allowed to be servants. But they had to get home before sundown. And so they call it the sundown city. Because after the sun went down in the city of Ferguson instead of, impeding the dirt pathway that led from the black side of town to the white side of town. cement blocks were erected and chains replaced every night. The same path that the African American servants traveled, that same dirt road that they traveled years later was covered with paving, and became the final resting place of Michael Brown. The United States Department of Justice concluded his investigation into the city of Ferguson, finding that it had a pattern and practice and policy of violating citizens constitutional rights by conducting unreasonable stops and detentions lacking probable cause, violating the right to equal protection under the 14th amendment based on their race based on them being members of African descent. The United States filed a lawsuit against the city of Ferguson for its unconstitutional policing patterns.
The sundown city is where the story of Michael Brown begins. At approximately noon on August 9 2014, Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson two African American males are walking on Canfield drive a public street located in the city of Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Brown and Dorian were not impeding or slowing traffic as they began to cross the street. As they reach the center of the street a Ferguson Police Department Officer Darren Wilson approached them in a marked patrol vehicle stopped within inches of them and ordered them to get the F off the street.
Officer Wilson drove away and then suddenly backed his vehicle up, placed it in reverse and drove back to where Michael Brown and Dorian Johnson were continuing to walk. Officer Wilson turned and maneuvered his vehicle semi perpendicular to the street, causing it to impede the walking path of Michael Brown in Dorian Johnson, effectively detaining them.
Officer Wilson pushed his car door open, car door open was such a force that it struck Michael Brown’s body and ricocheted back upon himself. Officer Wilson then reached through the car window, grabbed Michael Brown’s clothing and body and drew his weapon pointing it at Michael Brown. As Michael Brown was not in the midst of any unlawful activity, Officer Wilson could have simply driven the vehicle away, as he had no lawful authority to approach Michael Brown. Michael Brown struggled to break free to protect himself from physical force or deadly force. Officer Wilson unholstered his gun and fired two unlawful and unjustified shots from inside of his vehicle, one that struck Michael Brown in the right hand. With a significant gunshot wound to his right hand. Michael Brown broke free and began to flee on foot in an effort to preserve his life.
As Michael was fleeing the officer, he fired yet another shot. Then Officer Wilson began to chase a fleeing and wounded victim. One of those shots lodged into an apartment building on Canfield drive, proving that Officer Wilson shot at Michael Brown when he had his back turned in while he was attempting to run away and save his life. At some point, Michael Brown Michael Brown’s body jolted either from receiving and or hearing additional shots fired as he was fleeing with his back turned to Officer Wilson. After running for several yards, he realized he was bleeding and vulnerable to imminent death or more bodily harm from Officer Wilson. Michael Brown turned around and raised his hands in a non threatening manner and stated don’t shoot. I don’t have a gun, I’m unarmed. Several eyewitness accounts corroborate that Michael Brown is unarmed throughout the entire incident, badly bleeding and attempting to flee to safety moments before being gunned down by Officer Wilson. Michael Brown endured a substantial amount of conscious pain and suffering. From the moment the first shot was fired, and throughout the seven shots that riddled Michael Brown’s body actually and proximately causing his death. In total 12 gunshots were fired. Officer Wilson had an arsenal of non lethal weapons and non lethal use of force options available to him including pepper spray, a baton, flashlights, his fist, he could have attempted to roll up the window or drive away, none of which he used to de escalate the encounter.
Dr. Michael Baden’s autopsy, an independent autopsy that was procured by the family revealed the following: his right hand, which entered the palm of his right hand at the base of his thumb traveled approximately two inches and exited near the wrist. That was the first shot. Three gunshot wounds to the upper and lower right arm one from the back, one from the front, and one with an undetermined point of entry. One shot entered through the forehead at a downward trajectory and exited the right lower jaw and re entered through the upper right chest. One shot entered at the right upper chest and continued downward into the rib area. One shot to the head entered at the top of Brown’s head and moved down forward through the brain. With the final shot indicates referred to as the kill shot is that Michael Brown was falling onto the ground. His body was falling in front of him when the officer shot him through the head. He clearly used a kill shot with the intent to kill Michael Brown. Although his body was already succumbing to the injuries, Michael Brown’s lifeless body was abandoned on the ground for four hours as blood streamed from his head, arm and torso onto Canfield drive, while his family and the community watched and despair and disbelief. At no time throughout the incident did unarmed Michael Brown pose a risk of harm to officers or the public. Certainly not after he was bleeding from a shot to his hand, with his arms in the hands in the air, asking Officer Wilson, not to shoot.
I asked the commissioners a few days ago when we discussed the Jacob Blake and the George Floyd killing to pay attention to where these were these shootings take place and under what circumstances, it is not under the veil of night. It is in broad daylight. It is in the middle of streets in the middle of communities, with an audience watching where bodies are left to send a message to Black people in America, that your life is not equal to ours. It was another example of a public execution that has taken place in the United States of America. Although the United States Department of Justice concluded that it was a sundown city, it begs the question, has safety improved for black people in Ferguson since the 1950s and 60s? Or has it gotten worse now that they’re gunned down in broad daylight? And if we can please play that one minute and 35 second clip of the shooting? I’m sorry, Michael Brown’s body laying in the street and the testimony from witnesses that observed parts of the incident.
What began next was the cover up of a crime that had just been committed. Officer Wilson’s supervisor arrived at the scene shortly after Michael Brown was shot and killed. Wilson told his supervisor that Michael Brown had his arms up moments before he shot and killed him. During this conversation just after the incident, Officer Wilson never told his supervisor that Michael Brown placed his right hand in his waistband or otherwise suggested that Michael Brown had a weapon. Nor did Officer Wilson tell his supervisor that he suspect suspected Michael Brown of committing any crime other than quote unquote, walking in the street. He later changed his story, alleging that Michael Brown reached for his waistband, and that he believed that he had just stolen cigarillos from a store. [Connection breaks up, inaudible.]
Ria Julien 15:24
It appears we are having a technical difficulty at the moment. Why don’t we we can take a moment to see if Ms Rand will be able to join us. Unless attorney Crump or anyone else has been sworn in, would like to make their presentation at this time.
Benjamin Crump 15:49
I would defer to our law students advocates to present at this time.
Chad Steen 16:00
I will be presenting on systemic reform laws that have become available and enacted since Mr. Michael Brown’s death. So good morning, commissioners and thank you for allowing me to speak to you today. Since Mr. Michael Brown’s death 34 states and the District of Columbia have adopted 79 laws in 2015 and 2016, which address a variety of police reforms, ranging from measures addressing racial profiling, and the use of force to de escalation training and body worn cameras. In 2019, California passed a law that change change the standard of use for deadly force from when it is viewed as reasonable to only when it’s seen as necessary in light of imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm. In fact, the National Conference of state legislators reports that between 2014 and 2017 16 states passed laws addressing police use of force. Also in Washington State, voters approved an initiative in 2018, making it easier to prosecute the police use of force in deadly force cases, mandating independent investigations into such cases, and requiring police to use provide to provide first aid. Now, although Mr. Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, his death sparked nationwide recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement. His words don’t shoot, while he had his hands up in the air, became a symbol of protesting police brutality and systemic racism throughout the United States. His death also prompted President Barack Obama to create a task force to evaluate nationwide police practices. However, despite all of this since 2017, police in America have shot and killed at least 893 black individuals with at least 226 of those shootings happening just last year. It remains clear that much work still needs to be done for America to affect real and lasting systemic reform. Thank you.
Ria Julien 18:20
Ms. Rand? If you would like to proceed, continue with your presentation. We cannot hear you at moment you’re muted.
Jasmine Rand 18:35
Can you guys hear me now? I apologize that we’re a bit out of consequential order here, but let me keep going. And I’m going to return to talking about really the cover up of the crime that occurred. Officer Wilson returned to the police station and began storing evidence and interfering with the investigation, including washing blood off of his hands and clearing and bagging the gun who used to shoot and kill Michael Brown. Officer Wilson destroyed evidence in the presence of his former supervising and training officer, who was also his fiance and she did not tell him to stop watching the blood from his hands or bagging his own gun. Officer Wilson tampered with critical pieces of evidence by destroying potential gunshot residue on his hands, blood and other DNA evidence as well as compromising the integrity of his weapon, which had significant probative and evidentiary value. Officer Wilson was motivated by racial bias when he shot and killed Michael Brown. The language patterns that he used to refer to Michael Brown and human being indicate that he viewed him as superhuman or subhuman, but never simply human. Officer Wilson referred to him as a demon. He said that he bulked up to take more bullets. He said that he grunted and charged at him descriptions of animal like behavior. He also admitted that he uses the N word to refer to African Americans and that the city Ferguson Police officers use the N word a racial derived racial slur to refer to African Americans.
On November 24 2014, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCullough announced that a grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson. On March 4 2015, the United States Department of Justice released a report from their investigation finding an Officer Wilson would not face federal charges. On July 30 2020, St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Wesley Bell announced that his office conducted a five month re investigation into the shooting and decided not to charge Officer Wilson with manslaughter or murder. The only success that this family’s had so far is on the civil lawsuit that we filed on April 23 2015, where we were able to successfully resolve the civil portion in a $1.5 million settlement. Now, I think it’s highly improbable that the city itself would be willing to resolve a lawsuit where there was no wrongdoing, no criminal wrongdoing for over seven figures. I’m now going to turn it over briefly to Nabeha Shaer to share with you the number of injured protesters and the attacks on media following the killing of Michael Brown.
Nabeha Shaer 21:27
Good morning. On August 12 2014, Maya Aaten-White was shot in the forehead by an unknown individual. On August 9 2015, Tyrone Harris Jr. was shot and critically injured by police during an anniversary protest. On April 29 2015, three Ferguson protesters were shot, two in the neck and one in the leg. An individual was arrested for shooting the victim with the leg wound, but it is unknown who shot the other two individuals. On August 9 2016, an unidentified Ferguson protester was struck by a car and injured. Multiple other individuals have been injured by officers through tear gas, pepper spray and non lethal rounds such as rubber bullets and beanbags at protests tied to the shooting of Michael Brown, but they are unidentified.
There have similarly been a number of violent attacks against the media. On August 11 2014, freelance photographer Whitney Curtis was shot by police with rubber bullets while covering the protest. She claimed there was no protesters within 25 feet of her. Her cameras were clearly visible and she was wearing a press badge. On August 13 2014, police directed tear gas at an Al Jazeera news crew covering the protest with no one else visible in the area. On August 18 2014, Tim Poole of Vice was shot with a rubber bullet while covering the protest. On August 19th 2014, Jacqueline Lee of the Belval News Democrat was shot with tear gas canisters while covering the protests. On August 19 2014, journalist Ryan Devereaux of the Intercept and Lucas Herms Meyer of the Bild were covering the Ferguson protests and were shot by police with rubber bullets while they had their hands in the air, yelling press, journalists, we’re the media. On August 10 2015, St. Louis post dispatch photographer Robert Cohen was sprayed by police with pepper spray. All covering the protests in Ferguson. From 2017 through 2019, an average of 150 incidents were reported to the press freedom tracker annually. In the one month following the killing of George Floyd on May 25 of 2020, over 930 incidents were recorded, in which journalists reported being assaulted, arrested or otherwise prevented from utilizing their right to free press to document history. The deliberate systemic and systematic targeting of these individuals, while utilizing unlawful force in a strategic attempt to suppress rights to free speech and free press is powerful evidence of the concerted efforts to repress the Black Lives Matter movement. Thank you.
Jasmine Rand 24:17
And as for their evidence, of, of an effort to suppress free speech and the press, and I regretfully did not remember to mention this, Ben and I, Ben Crump and I worked on this case, maybe six or seven years ago. And I will provide the evidence after this call and hopefully we passed on to the commissioners. There was a letter of admonition that was directed by the email to the attorneys, which I find found an absolutely astounding act by a federal judge and the letter of admonition that was sent to the attorneys was a de facto gag order that prohibited us from addressing the press, that prohibited us from using the media. And most poignantly the punishment if we violated this de facto gag order that was never filed as a part of the official record, was if we defied the judges own letter of admonition, was jail time. Never before as an attorney and not subsequent to that have I been threatened with jail time, via email from a federal judge by letter of admonition that if I address the press, that if attorney Benjamin Crump addressed the press, that if attorney Ron Sullivan, a professor at Harvard Law School addressed the press, that we would be thrown in jail. The letter of admonition did not ever offer a basis to remove our first amendment rights. And it did not offer any other consequence outside of incarceration for a violation of the admission.
The letter of admission would not be in the public record, if it was not for a motion for reconsideration, a motion for clarification that I filed attaching it as an exhibit, asking the judge to clarify exactly what he meant by this letter of admonition. admonition meaning a reprimand, rebuke, a warning or caution that if we utilize the press that we would face jail time, I think the letter set a very dangerous precedent in our nation, and certainly, certainly the other thing that was very disturbing about this letter is that he was threatening some of the most well known and most powerful attorneys in the United States of America. Some of our greatest civil rights leaders, Benjamin Crump, who Al Sharpton refers to as black America’s Attorney General, with jail time, and I will provide a letter of our motion for clarification and the letter of admonishment. for your consideration. Do we have Lezley on?
Benjamin Crump 26:58
I do not see her Ms. Rand. If I could address the court just briefly. Your honors, it is a delight to come before you again, just to have the audience of this important issue. We are humbled that you would consider these matters of people of color who have been marginalized, victimized and disenfranchised, to have the audience of the United Nations talking about Michael Brown, a young man who was growing up in a lower socio economic housing community in the United States of America is significant on many levels, because it speaks to the fact that even though the state tries to marginalize their lives while they live, they certainly tried to marginalize them in death at the hands of the government and these extrajudicial killers. What is so disturbing about Michael Brown’s case, is the fact that you saw the intellectual justification in full effect. We have the grand jury system in the United States of America, where when people are charged with a crime, that could be considered a felony imprisonment more than 25 years, they have to go before the grand jury, where Black people in America often are charged with those crimes, we call it the school to prison pipeline, the prison industrial complex, where in this situation when you had the Black victim lying dead on the ground, and there’s a white police officer, they just changed all the rules.
The Grand Jury proceedings allowed the killer of Michael Brown to go testify before the grand jury, and he was not cross examined at all. He was able to give his narratives of events. People like Justin Hansen and other activists and educators in the St. Louis Missouri community, were all dumbfounded that this person was allowed to give his alibi for killing this unarmed black man with no response from the government. And what was so disturbing about when Black people were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for years, they filed lawsuits. The United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the time to be able to present exculpatory evidence or put forth an alibi defense is not at the grand jury proceeding. And is during the trial once you’ve actually been charged. So when Black people try to say we were innocent, we didn’t do this crime, we want to be able to testify before the grand jury. They said that is not allowed. However, when a white man kills this young Black man, then they say, you can come and testify, and we will let the grand jury consider your testimony. That’s why we continue to argue, Attorney Jasmine Rand and I, in all these cases, that there are two justice systems that exist in America, one for governing Black America, and another for governing white America. And we must continue to address this issue head on and speak truth to power because our children are being killed. And we just cannot allow this to continue to happen. I yield back to attorney Rand.
Jasmine Rand 30:55
And our hope in our prayer commissioners, is that you will bring truth to power. As attorney Benjamin Crump asked that you will bring light and justice to the sundown city, that you will not conclude as our justice system has did it is reasonable to shoot at an unarmed Black man 12 times, that you will not conclude that it is a reasonable belief that Black men in America consistently reach for invisible guns in their waistband, that you will not conclude that it was objectively reasonable for Officer Darren Wilson to view Michael Brown as a demon, that it was objectively reasonable for Officer Wilson to view him as bulking up like the Incredible Hulk, that it was objectively reasonable to view him like an animal that was charging and grunting at the officer, that you commissioners will conclude that it is never reasonable, never reasonable to perceive a Black man as either superhuman or subhuman, that the only reasonable observation of a Black man can be that he was simply a human being. And with that, I thank you, commissioners, I will log off momentarily.
Benjamin Crump 32:06
I do have one of the requests of the Commission. We have a learned colleague, he is attorney Professor Justin Asper, who has worked with the United Nations. Previously, he has the Thurgood Marshall Center at the prestigious Howard University. We would hope that we could supplement this record with some of the research that they have uncovered working at a institution of higher learning, one of our most esteemed historically Black colleges and universities in America. And I conclude.
Ria Julien 32:54
Thank you attorney Crump. We would invite those submissions, and we will be in touch with your office about how to make those available to us. Thank you. We are now at the 35 minute mark. There are 15 minutes left in this hearing. I’d like to thank all the witnesses for their presentations thus far and turn it over to the commissioners at this time for questions.
Benjamin Crump 33:23
Niloufer Bhagwat 33:27
Can you hear me Attorney Crump?
Benjamin Crump 33:29
Yes, ma’am. Good morning.
Niloufer Bhagwat 33:32
Good morning. Attorney Crump, how do you explain in the background of the Justice Department’s investigation of Ferguson, after the murder of Michael Brown and the complaint filed by the United States government in the district court of Missouri, 400 years of brutal killings and namings of African American have not been categorized as a holocaust. Whereas 12 years 12 years of what happened, the Jewish people in Nazi Germany correctly has been categorized as a Holocaust. But 400 years of the killing, the murder, the meaning that after Jim Crow has not been highlighted and categorized with museums, focusing attention on the issue. Why have the African, the governments of Africa and the African union, not focused support, why has the world wide international opinion not said that we cannot categorize the murder of one race as a Holocaust, but ignored for 100 years and more of the killings of the African American, and the colonial holocaust in South Asia, of millions, millions more than what happened, as a very serious genocide, for which reparations are necessary to restore the principle of equality? And I’m talking about reparations not as charity, but because of the reality that the African Americans contributed to the capital accumulation of the United States. And the same is the history, the history of the Native American has also not been before. How do you explain this?
Benjamin Crump 36:08
it is inexplicable. That is why we continue to declare Black Lives Matter. When you think of the atrocities, the horror, the inhumanity, the rape, the murder, that was slavery in the United States of America. And the attempt to marginalize the effects it had on Africans and African Americans, since that time, is inexplicable. We do believe that it is by design, that they the powers to be in the United States of America continue to try to engage in the intellectual justification of discrimination. That’s why we see the systems of government and the grand juries operate to let the murderer of Michael Brown testify in court without being cross examined. Because if they can continue to try to say everything we did was legal, then they can try to justify this legalized genocide of colored people. As I write about in my book, the one thing I will say, as I see Michael Brown’s mother has joined us, is the fact that what Dr. King said, and I continue to, you know, re enforce that great commentary that he wrote from the Letter from the Birmingham Jail. We always have to challenge them when they say it’s legal. That still doesn’t make it right. He talked about even what Hitler did in Germany to the Jews. They said it was legal, but that didn’t make it right. And he said, they will say slavery, it was legal. The United States Supreme Court said it was legal, but that did not make it right. They said segregation was legal. But that did not make it right.
They tried to say that Michael Brown’s killing by Officer Darren Wilson in the Canfield community, in that neighborhood, all those Black people witnessed this child being murdered by this white police officer, they continue to tell us it was legal. And that is by design. And they will continue to that’s why it’s so important that we have tribunals like this that are beyond the persuasion of the court system in America to say you are not given the constitutional guarantees to Black people in America that you promise to all your citizens. And we have to continue, as Attorney Jeff Moran said the other day with the leader from India to say democratic governments have to help other democratic governments. I cede my time because we have a young woman who has dedicated her life and made it her mission to try to engage and educate empower people who are good character to say that black lives matter. And Michael Brown matters. Attorney Rand, do you need to say anything else before we introduce Ms. McSpadden and I know time is limited. And we want her to be heard by this international tribunal.
Jasmine Rand 39:46
Lezley, I thank you so much for joining us and you’re free to offer your testimony now to the commissioners.
Ria Julien 39:58
If I could just swear you in before you begin? Please confirm your name.
Lezley McSpadden 40:06
Ria Julien 40:07
Do you promise that your testimony to the Commission of Inquiry will be true to the best of your knowledge and belief.
Lezley McSpadden 40:13
Ria Julien 40:14
Thank you again for joining us, you may begin.
Lezley McSpadden 40:17
Thank you for having me. Good morning. I have some remarks here regarding my perception and my point of view for the last seven years. My name is Lezley McSpadden, and I’m the mother of Michael Brown. My unarmed 18 year old son was senselessly gunned down and killed by Ferguson Police officers on August 9 2014. Justice has never been served and no charges filed. I’m here today standing for Michael or Mike-Mike, as we all called him.
I’m also here to stand in the gap for mothers who have gone through the unimaginable pain of burying a child. Dr. King’s great march on Washington was August 28 1963, to advocate for civil and economic rights of African Americans. 58 years later, we are still fighting as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, and terrible racial unrest in America. My message today echoes Miss Fannie Lou Hamer. I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. We must stop talking about police brutality and systemic injustice and move swiftly with a new purpose and a real solid plan of action. We must change the laws. We need the Mike Brown law, a universal federal law that includes everything from body cameras to reform to sensitivity training and community engagement. Because there’s no more time to waste and this must come from the top. So to our new president, and Madam Vice President, Supreme Court justices Congress and the Senate, protect us. President Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris both made powerful statements on my son’s six year anniversary last August 9, during their campaign. The demand is clear that something exact needs to be in place that fixes this long overdue problem. The key organizers here, I’m sorry, to the key organizers here. We asked the parents of the countless names of victims, as the survivors, we know what that should look like. So let’s lay out the specific solution based plan and say, here’s the law we want to see implemented within the first 100 days to give Black and brown people some form of protection against police brutality.
This is the fierce sense of urgency Dr. King spoke of. The big issue here is there’s no accountability or discipline for the officer when they unjustly take their lives. The police officer who took my son’s life should not be above the law. We just ended an administration that fanned the flames of racism with the advice of law and order rhetoric, rhetoric that must end. This is about equal justice for all. America has never showed true accountability for slavery or lynching, or confronted the reality that this country has turned a blind eye to the stain of racism and segregation. As Black people we have fought, bled and died for the belief that this country belongs to us too. Yet so often, we have been treated as unequals. And our rights and our lives have less meaning. The exposure we’ve seen in recent years of rampant police brutality against Black and brown bodies, mostly young, unarmed Black men and boys goes back 400 years. It is as if history keeps repeating itself. It’s amazing why we love, we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. So as we watched the despicable and disturbing acts unfold on January 6 in Washington DC, it sounded the alarm, the alarm of hatred and bigotry. It is so clear that all of this uproar is rooted in the fear to remain in control. A segment of our society senses a loss of control and have relied on privilege protections under the law. Laws created to protect them and imprison or destroy us as people of color.
Yes, I’m speaking frankly on white privilege and the fear that some in white society have of accepting that this country belongs to all of us. So we have work to do in our communities and in this country. I want to say specifically to the mothers out here, that we can help change the trajectory of our kids in the direction of this country. But we need this country’s leadership to step up and give our communities resources to help equip our kids. Please know that our kids want to go places in life, and they can be powerful. If they have a chance to receive a good education with opportunity and resources. Let our kids know they can go past the corner, off the porch and leave the block. Mothers fight for your children. Never give up on your children. Don’t think that what happened to my son was because I failed as a parent. If I could have been there to catch any and every bullet, I would have. I loved my son. My people, we cannot forget where we come from. If we’re going to talk about where we are, and where we have to get to. I’m still fighting for justice in my voice. We’ll get stronger and louder into justice for Mike Brown and far too many others and serve. Mr. Wesley Bell, my county prosecutor ran on the promise to reopen my son, Mike-Mike’s case. He won, but he never made good on that promise. I want him to know that Mike-Mike still deserves due process and his case to be reopened and charges filed. The community deserve it. We the people stood with you and got you elected. So please do the right thing.
Finally, so the mothers of every culture, color background if you have lost a son or daughter to police brutality, or excessive force, let’s band together, fight together and heal together. Losing my son Michael Brown nearly took me out but I had to make a decision to press on and never give up on myself, my other three children or my family. I am actually asking you to do what our American justice system has failed to do, to take steps to support healing and repair for our families and communities. When it comes to racist police violence, people of African descent in the United States have been left to pick up the pieces alone. The majority of cases do not generate extensive media exposure or public support. And those families may struggle to pay legal fees, access, affordable mental health counseling, or even meet basic needs. So in addition to the acknowledgement of whom it is my hope that this commission will call for repair, reparations and healing for victims of police brutality, and their families. Also, where the United States fails to provide this support, perhaps the United Nations can step in and provide mental health and other resources of its own. If that hope becomes a reality, this commission will bring us one step closer to achieving some measure of justice and providing healing for our families.
This is why I formed the Michael O.D. Brown We Love our Sons and Daughters Foundation. It’s a creative support system focused on mental health, rainbow of mothers. So on behalf of all the rainbow mothers, walk in our shoes, see through our eyes and feel with our hearts. It’s time to make real tangible, significant change, change outdated laws in our communities, and in our judicial system. Let’s answer systemic racism, police brutality, once and for all. I want to use my work and my passion for my son’s legacy to live on to help heal the wounds, so no more Black and brown mothers have to bury their sons and daughters. I want a fair democracy so that my other three children can thrive and be successful. I want this country to be better and do better. I pray for peace. And I’m asking for a reckoning with the new administration. America needs to live up to being one nation under God. America. The world is watching. Dr. King’s legacy demands it. Thank you. Thank you and thank you.
Ria Julien 49:29
Thank you, Ms. McSpadden for your testimony and for being with us today. We are just about out of time for this hearing. I would just finally, we could end there or I will see if Commissioner Jilani would like an opportunity to ask a question before we conclude.
Hina Jilani 49:50
I just want to say to Attorney Crump you’re very right when you say that what is right what is legal may not be right I will. Add to that and say what is not right cannot be legal. And therefore any basis on which a something that is wrong is legalized must be removed. And this is the, this is the kind of way that we will be looking at all the material that that has that has been presented to us. I think if you really want law to be an instrument of social change, it cannot be an instrument of social change, it in itself is oppressive, it just is discriminatory and encourages institutional and structural racism are other forms of discrimination. So, I am very keen, especially on looking at in this particular case of Michael Brown, the report of the conclusions of the DOJ investigation on Ferguson, this will help us a great deal. So, if somebody can give it to the Secretariat of the commission? Well, we I would, I would certainly be very keen on seeing it. And I’m sure my fellow Commissioners would also like to see that in order for us to make sure that we send out a clear message of what you have said attorney Crump. Like what is legal is not and what is right cannot be legal.
Benjamin Crump 51:22
Yes, Ms. Rand, who’s also a great educator could supplement the record with the Ferguson report, in the case of Michael Brown.
Jasmine Rand 51:35
That has been provided.
Hina Jilani 51:37
I would also like to say to Ms. McSpadden that I have noted, your plea for us to recommend reopening of your son’s case. We will certainly look at all the material in order to see whether that would be a feasible and practical thing for us to do and I certainly look at it very seriously.
Benjamin Crump 52:05
Thank you, Attorney Rand, you were saying?
Jasmine Rand 52:09
Yes, that the the US DOJ reports have already been provided to the Commissioners, so that we can resend them if we need to.
Ria Julien 52:18
I think the steering committee has those in its possession and we will be re circulating those as well. We thank you again. Attorneys Crump and Rand and thank you especially to the mother of Michael Brown, Ms. Lezley McSpadden for giving us her testimony today to the commission. This concludes the hearing of the case of Michael Brown, and hearings will resume tomorrow. Thank you again.