WASHINGTON (NNPA) – Long after the St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert M. McCulloch announced Officer Darren Wilson will not be prosecuted in connection with the killing of unarmed Ferguson, Mo. teenager Michael Brown and burning tempers and flames had subsided, African American leaders were still expressing their disappointment in a criminal justice system that failed Brown.
“It has been fairly obvious from the beginning that the predominate belief in Ferguson and St. Louis was that Darren Wilson, the killer of Michael Brown, was not going to be indicted by a Bob McCullough-led grand jury,” Jesse Jackson said in a statement. “In a rambling statement of the grand jury’s process and conclusion – which did little to inform – Bob McCullough acted in the capacity of a defense attorney who misused the grand jury process ‘as a trial’ without professional legal cross-examination.”
Jackson continued, “The issue is not the unfortunate and unwise violent protests that followed. The issue is the lack of federal uplift for the community even now. The issue is the lack of federal enforcement of civil rights laws. The issue is that Ferguson’s police and fire departments do not represent the people, are in violation of the law, yet it continues to receive federal funds. Ferguson’s police department, fire department and contracts issued are all subsidized by the federal government – including the equipment that was used to put down the protests – yet the federal government is still not enforcing its own civil rights laws.”
In a Huffington Post blog, Al Sharpton said: “If a grand jury is hearing evidence tantamount to what they would hear in a jury trial, then what is the point of a grand jury? In Ferguson, there are witnesses who say Brown had his hands up when he was shot. That should be enough probable cause to go to trial to then determine if Officer Wilson is guilty or not. It is at trial that he can then defend himself and his attorneys can present their own witnesses and their own defense.”
Sharpton added, “Whether it is the death of Michael Brown, Eric Garner or the many others who die at the hands of police all across this country, it’s important to remember that we never get to hear their side of the story. The victims don’t have the ability to cross-examine or refute theories. They don’t have the ability to hide out somewhere for months while a grand jury deliberates. And they don’t have the ability to defend themselves as some may attempt to assassinate their character either in a courtroom or in the court of public opinion. They are dead, silenced forever.”
National Urban League President Mac H. Morial said, “We respect the grand jury’s decision in the course of due process of our legal system. We will, however, continue to fight for justice and accountability in the death of Michael Brown. As such, we first and foremost urge the Department of Justice to continue a full and thorough investigation to determine whether federal civil rights charges should be filed against Officer Wilson, as well as to carry out federal reviews of police misconduct and implement key recommendations for police reform. The excessive use of force by law enforcement in our communities is unacceptable, and we know that we cannot prevent future similar tragedies unless and until there is systemic change across the nation in the area of police reform.”
Charles Steele, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), said, “The grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson is not an end but just another painful step in the long journey to justice, a journey that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our founding president, and others walked with confidence and determination.
“Just as SCLC did not give up until the buses were desegregated in Mont-gomery, Ala. Under Dr. King’s leadership, we will not give quit until justice is the norm in America instead of the exception in the deaths of our unarmed Black men and women.”
The NAACP announced that will initiate a 7-day, 120-mile march from Ferguson, Mo. to Jefferson City, the state capital, on Saturday, Nov. 29.
“The death of Michael Brown and actions by the Ferguson Police Department is a distressing symptom of the untested and overaggressive policing culture that has become commonplace in communities of color all across the country, said NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.
“Our ‘Journey to Justice: Ferguson to Jefferson City’ march is the first of many demonstrations to show both the country and the world that the NAACP and our allies will not stand down until systemic change, accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct are served for Michael Brown and the countless other men and women who lost their lives to such police misconduct.”