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“Collective Healing” at Nat’l Black Lives Matter Convergence Ends with Police Pepper-Spraying Teen

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More than a thousand Black Lives Matter supporters converged in Cleveland, Ohio, this weekend for a historic conference to raise national attention about police brutality and other pressing issues, including immigration rights, economic justice and LGBTQ rights. During the opening ceremony, family members of more than 20 African Americans killed by police took to the stage to speak about why they continue to fight for justice. Democracy Now!’s Messiah Rhodes was on the ground in Cleveland, Ohio, and spoke to several conference participants who say it was “a learning space, a healing space, a politicizing space, a radicalizing space.” The event ended with a stark reminder of how much work remains to be done. On Sunday, a crowd of participants witnessed a police officer attempting to arrest a 14-year-old boy for alleged intoxication. The Black Lives Matter participants blocked the squad car and tried to get the child out. One of the officers then began pepper-spraying the crowd. The video has since gone viral.

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

AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to what happened this weekend in Cleveland, Ohio, where about a thousand Black Lives Matter supporters gathered for an historic conference to raise national attention about police brutality and other pressing issues, including immigration rights, economic justice and LGBTQ rights. Democracy Now! spoke Friday to three of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is Opal Tometi. But we will turn to the clip of people speaking at the conference in Cleveland.

CHERRELL BROWN: Cherrell Brown. I’m with several different organizations. Right now I currently teach social justice with Sadie Nash Leadership. We’ve been through a lot this year, you know, since August—and before then. And it’s trauma compacted on trauma for people who are in black communities, right? So, this has been a learning space, a healing space, a politicizing space, a radicalizing space. We get to love upon each other, affirm each other, check each other, hold each other, hold each other accountable. And I think that’s really important in sustaining us moving forward. There is collective healing in not having to worry about filtering yourself or worrying about, at least in some instances, not feeling unsafe, right? Because you’re amongst family.

MARSHALL EDWARD CONWAY: Marshall Edward Conway, a former political prisoner for the last 44 years. I don’t believe that black freedom can exist without world freedom. We need to free the planet. We need to free the human race. We need to work together across all the different lines. And it is only because of creating a space for everybody to be a human being can we be a human being and have black freedom. We need to work together. For years, women has been taking the lead in this. We need to involve ourselves. We need to engage ourselves. We need to put aside our moralistic or ideological differences, and realize that as a black community we are all under threat. We’re under the threat of genocide. We are under the threat of mass incarceration. We are under the threat of impoverishment. And we definitely have a community that’s collapsing. And if we don’t come together, reach out to the youth, to the elders, to every segment of the community, then we’re going to be in real trouble.

BREE CAMPBELL: My name is Bree Campbell, and I’m from Detroit, Michigan. I work for the University of Michigan SexLab, and I am a fellow at the National LGBTQ Task Force. I’m a trans woman of color, and I wanted to make sure that in this movement, that we are included, because we are left out of a lot of things. And it’s really sad that there are times when I want to express the sorrow that’s going on for people of color in the community, but feel very left out a lot of times when it comes to conversations about, like, Black Lives Matter, violence against women, violence against trans women. So I’m here not only to build capacity, but I’m also here to make sure that trans voices are brought to the table.

AMY GOODMAN: Special thanks to Messiah Rhodes for that report from the inaugural Movement for Black Lives conference in Cleveland, Ohio. Well, conference-goers ended the weekend with a stark reminder of how much work needs to be done. When the event ended around 5:00 p.m. Sunday, a crowd of participants witnessed a police officer attempting to arrest a 14-year-old boy for alleged intoxication. The Black Lives Matter participants blocked the squad car, tried to get the child out. One of the officers then began pepper-spraying the crowd. The video has since gone viral.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we’re going to Nairobi, Kenya, to talk about the president’s first trip to Kenya—a first U.S. president’s trip to Kenya—President Obama has been there before—and then his trip to Ethiopia. Stay with us.

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