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When Will the Killings Stop? Calls for Justice as Tamir Rice Joins List of Unpunished Police Deaths

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Tamir Rice was the youngest victim in a series of well-known cases of police killings of unarmed African Americans—and the latest whose death led to no charges against the officers involved. “There needs to be a complete recall of the distribution of resources that provide police the opportunity to continue to wreak havoc in the lives of black individuals,” says Elle Hearns, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Cleveland. “This cannot consistently be where we are—week after week, month after month, year after year—with no accountability for these officers, no accountability by the city officials, no accountability by the federal government.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: And let me ask Elle Hearns, after the grand jury decision not to charge the officers in the Tamir Rice shooting, the Department of Justice issued the statement saying, quote, “We will continue our independent review of this matter, assess all available materials and determine what actions are appropriate, given the strict burdens and requirements imposed by applicable federal civil rights laws.” The statement went on to say that the DOJ will continue its reforms of the Cleveland Police Department following the finding of a pattern or practice of excessive use of force. Does that satisfy you in the Black Lives Matter movement?

ELLE HEARNS: No, absolutely not. I think because we are aware of the insidious history that policing has had in the genocide against black bodies in this country, that is not satisfactory. I think that there needs to be a complete recall of policing and the distribution of resources that provide police the opportunity to continue to wreak havoc in the lives of black individuals specifically. I think that we have seen the Department of Justice across this country open investigations and not actually develop anything that was truly revolutionary towards the reform that community members, activist organizers are demanding through the uprisings that we’ve seen. So it’s not satisfactory. It’s just another attempt by government officials to posture as if they are working on fixing a continuous, consistent issue that we continue to see every single day. Every 28 hours, a black person is murdered by the police. We’ve seen recently in Chicago murders of individuals just in the past week.

And so, this cannot consistently be where we are—week after week, month after month, year after year—with no accountability from these officers, no accountability by the city officials, no accountability by the federal government. And so, it’s not satisfactory until we continue to see officers removed, until we see pensions removed from their futures, and also until we see a complete recalling of the way that policing is orchestrated. And if the people are not in control of the police, if people don’t have any say-so in what the police are doing in their communities, it will never be satisfactory to me, and I’m sure it won’t be satisfactory to anyone involved in the Black Lives Matter movement or the network that has consistently influenced the movement.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, last week in Torrington, Connecticut, police arrested a 66-year-old white woman after she brandished a fake handgun outside the police department. Police said Elaine Rothenberg pointed a gun at civilians, asked if they were police, yelled about hating cops, shouted to police, quote, “What are you going to do? Shoot me?” She reportedly raised the gun, pointed it at officers, yelling, “Boom! Boom! Boom!” A photo of the BB gun she had shows it did not appear to have an orange tab indicating it’s fake. Rothenberg was arrested without incident after throwing down the gun. Activists have compared this to what happened to Tamir Rice. Elle Hearns, your comment?

ELLE HEARNS: I think that it is exactly what white privilege looks like. And I think that America has a way of denying that privilege in this country exists. And going even outside of the murder of Tamir, then we also have to look at the murder of Tanisha Anderson, who was also brutally murdered by the police in a response to a mental health episode, that they obviously were not able to respond effectively to because of their lack of training towards black individuals who suffer from mental health issues. So the fact that this 66-year-old woman, who made public threats towards the police outside of a police department, was able to walk away and only—I don’t even know if she was arrested, but the fact that she was able to walk away with her life still intact speaks to the deeper, systemic structural racism that exists and also what it looks like to be white in America and the privilege that black individuals do not have. And unfortunately, Tamir did not have that opportunity. Within one second, his life was taken. And so it is an insult for there to be accountability laid on the life of a child for the reason why he was murdered, and a 66-year-old responsible elder walks away with life. It’s an insult.

AMY GOODMAN: Latonya, I want to end with you. You have a son in the age range of Tamir, your cousin?

LATONYA GOLDSBY: My daughter, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Your daughter.


AMY GOODMAN: How do you explain to her what happened?

LATONYA GOLDSBY: It’s very difficult. They are old enough to understand that they are black children in America and that they already have a strike against them. So, teaching them that, you know, you have to comply with what police officers say, whether they are giving you structures to come here or whatever, you know, there is this scenario that black children or black men or black people are a threat, and that’s just totally untrue. So, in order to prepare my son, my daughter for encounters with police, just do what they say, you know, because there’s no guarantee that they’re having a good day. We don’t know what that encounter may tell, as you see with Tamir Rice, my 12-year-old cousin, just simply playing in a park, where kids play. Not to mention that his school was in that location. He visited that recreation center daily. So people were very familiar with him in that area.

AMY GOODMAN: Latonya, you tweeted on Monday, “@Mizzou footballers did it. You can, too @KingJames. Tamir could have been your son. #NoJusticeNoLebron.”


AMY GOODMAN: What is—can you say whether LeBron James responded and why you see this linked to the Missouri football players?

LATONYA GOLDSBY: No, he hasn’t responded. Tamir was—Tamir idolized LeBron—that was his favorite basketball player—as most children do. He was his hero. So I felt like reaching out to him in a response that maybe it could generate some type of response from the basketball team, the way that the Missouri football team stood up for their rights, hoping that he would do the same thing.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Elle, are there more protests planned?

ELLE HEARNS: I can tell you that if the justice system is not interested in holding those accountable who are responsible for the murder of children, that the people will hold those folks accountable. And so, there will continuously be accountability and pressure for those who are responsible for the murder of Tamir Rice. And as long as this family has to suffer with no justice, then the people will continue to support in any way that we can to make sure that those who are responsible are held accountable.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you all for being with us, Elle Hearns with Black Lives Matter Cleveland; Latonya Goldsby, her cousin is Tamir Rice; and Billy Joe Mills, one of the attorneys for the Rice family. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Connecticut. Stay with us.

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