I have to control my excitement about this, lest I appear heartless. It’s not that I am happy when people go to prison, but the significance of this sentencing is PROFOUND!
For years we have fought for accountability when police shoot unarmed black boys, men and women down in the streets and last week, we finally saw justice happen. Michael Slager, the former South Carolina police officer who shot and killed Walter Scott, age 50, was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in federal prison.
“This is an historic day for civil rights, in particular for officer-involved shootings,” said Chris Stewart, one of the Scott family’s attorneys, at a press conference following the sentencing.
Slager shot Scott in the back five times as Scott was running from him after pulling him over for a broken tail light. A toxicology report showed that Slager had cocaine and alcohol in his system at the time of the shooting. Thankfully, there was a video that clearly showed Slager shooting Scott in the back and that was the main piece of evidence that weighed heavily in the sentencing.
By all reports Slager is deeply remorseful for his actions. He reportedly named each family member by name in court and apologized to each one of them. Slager’s wife begged the court for mercy. And while I am heartbroken once again for all involved, I am so happy that we finally see a white police officer behind bars for murdering an unarmed black man. White people have been killing black people without consequence for centuries and it has to stop. I sincerely hope that this sentencing will deter other officers from pulling the trigger in the future.
Fifty years ago Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was working on a campaign he called the Poor People’s Campaign and then he was assassinated. A year before his assassination, at a Southern Christian Leadership Conference staff retreat in May 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
I think it is necessary for us to realize that we have moved from the era of civil rights to the era of human rights…[W]hen we see that there must be a radical redistribution of economic and political power, then we see that for the last twelve years we have been in a reform movement…That after Selma and the Voting Rights Bill, we moved into a new era, which must be an era of revolution…In short, we have moved into an era where we are called upon to raise certain basic questions about the whole society.
It’s in this spirit that the Poor People’s Campaign is being resurrected this spring. The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality. A thousand people in 25 states around the country are going to engage in waves of civil disobedience from Mother’s Day to Summer Solstice in 2018, making the demands known across the nation in coordinated actions. This will be 40 days of continuous civil disobedience, the likes of which, this country has not seen in a long time, if ever.
I am particularly excited about this campaign as my husband is the national faith partnerships organizer for the campaign. But even more so, I am thrilled that the fusionist politics and Moral Monday movement from North Carolina aka Repairers of the Breach are leading the charge along with the Kairos Center from NYC. I think this kind of broad reaching solidarity along economic lines has real revolutionary potential to change the fabric of the systems that keep poor people poor. I have a lot hope for this campaign and I invite you to check it out and show up to participate!
Check out the fundamental principles of the campaign!
1- We are rooted in a moral analysis based on our deepest religious and constitutional values that demand justice for all. Moral revival is necessary to save the heart and soul of our democracy.
2- We are committed to lifting up and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, and ecological devastation and to building unity across lines of division.
3- We believe in the dismantling of unjust criminalization systems that exploit poor communities and communities of color and the transformation of the “War Economy” into a “Peace Economy” that values all humanity.
4- We believe that equal protection under the law is non-negotiable.
5- We believe that people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist. Blaming the poor and claiming that the United States does not have an abundance of resources to overcome poverty are false narratives used to perpetuate economic exploitation, exclusion, and deep inequality.
6- We recognize the centrality of systemic racism in maintaining economic oppression must be named, detailed and exposed empirically, morally and spiritually. Poverty and economic equality cannot be understood apart from a society built on white supremacy.
7- We aim to shift the distorted moral narrative often promoted by religious extremists in the nation from personal issues like prayer in school, abortion, sexuality, gun rights, property rights to systemic injustices like how our society treats the poor, those on the margins, the least of these, women, children, workers, immigrants and the sick; equality and representation under the law; and the desire for peace, love and harmony within and among nations.
8- We will build up the power of people and state-based movements to serve as a vehicle for a powerful moral movement in the country and to transform the political, economic and moral structures of our society.
9- We recognize the need to organize at the state and local level—many of the most regressive policies are being passed at the state level, and these policies will have long and lasting effect, past even executive orders. The movement is not from above but below.
10- We will do our work in a non-partisan way—no elected officials or candidates get the stage or serve on the State Organizing Committee of the Campaign. This is not about left and right, Democrat or Republican but about right and wrong.
11- We uphold the need to do a season of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience as a way to break through the tweets and shift the moral narrative. We are demonstrating the power of people coming together across issues and geography and putting our bodies on the line to the issues that are affecting us all.
12- The Campaign and all its Participants and Endorsers embrace nonviolence. Violent tactics or actions will not be tolerated.