Mayor Bell and Sheila Tyson Statements on Ferguson

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Washington, D.C. (November 24, 2014) – The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) offers its prayers to the family of Michael Brown and the community of Ferguson in light of the grand jury decision to decline to indict in the case of the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown.

AAMA President, Mayor William A. Bell, Sr. (Birmingham, Ala.) released the following statement: “While this is an emotional time for the family of Michael Brown and the citizens of Ferguson, as well as the entire nation that has been following this case, it is important that both law enforcement officers and Ferguson protestors exercise restraint.  We must continue to seek information and justice peacefully, and continue to work towards ensuring our criminal justice system is fair and equitable to all of our citizens, including young men and boys of color.”


 

Councilwoman Sheila Tyson, president of the Alabama Chapter of National Action Network, on the Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict:

“Oscar Grant, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McCade, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Stansberry Jr., Sean Bell, Aaron Campbell, Victor Seen, Trayvon Martin, Alonzo Ashley, and now Michael Brown. These are a handful of the unarmed, African-American men who have been killed by police officers—all of whom faced minimal consequences for their actions.

In fact, 5 unarmed African-American men have been killed by police officers in the last month. I join many citizens in wondering: what will it take for this country to recognize that African-American men have a target on their backs, and that police officers have been given a license to kill at their discretion?

It’s tragic that I even have to ask this question in 2014. It’s tragic for my little grand-baby, for the starry-eyed children I read to earlier this week, and for Americans of all colors and ethnicities that make a daily contribution to a positive and equitable society. But the reality is clear: young African-American men—no matter their education, background, or upbringing—are at risk. And there is no coming back from death.”

“Before I say anything else, I want to be clear that not all police officers are bad. I choose to believe that most of them go to work, and do a satisfactory job. I also want to be clear that under no circumstance is violence, rioting, and looting the answer…but as Dr. King so eloquently stated, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.'”

“The truth is that Michael Brown deserved his day in court for his alleged actions, just like Darren Wilson. But that opportunity was taken away from him, just like it has been taken away from so many other young and defenseless African-American men.

What the media doesn’t tell us is that theft, fights, and drug-use happens in Mountain Brook and Vestavia, just like it does in West End and Ensley. In Beverly Hills, just like in Compton. In swanky Manhattan business offices, just like the Marcy Projects in Brooklyn. The crimes are the same, but once you insert people’s biases and prejudices into the picture, the law of second chances and ‘slaps on the wrist’ are inequitably applied.”

“I, for one, refuse to remain silent about it. Today, soft talk just won’t do. People keep saying that we need to “learn” from this, but that simply isn’t good enough. You cannot teach people what they refuse to see: the life of the African-American male does not hold the same value as the life of his counterpart. Not anywhere…not even in the most powerful country on the planet. Remember: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.'”

“I’m urging citizens to express their anger, disappointment, and fears in a productive and positive manner. It’s time to peacefully protest. It’s time to call your Congressmen and Congresswomen, your Senators, your state representatives, and your City Councilors. It’s time to share your outrage through the power of words. It’s time to join your brothers and sisters—black, white, brown, and yellow—in peaceful protest of this injustice. It’s time to use the education that Dr. King and countless other civil rights leaders fought for us to have. It’s time to speak truth to power.”

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