In the wake of the non-indictment of Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference has announced several new initiatives to combat police brutality in Chicago, including a community-member review board and new SCLC Chicago office.
The historic civil rights organization, founded by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., plans to work with city officials to bring changes to the review board. A meeting with city officials is scheduled for this month.
Rev. Gregg Greer, SCLC’s Midwest president, joined Tio Hardiman, a Chicago civil rights advocate, in announcing the new measures to fight police brutality.
“Civic boards are going to be very critical to our civil rights strategy,” Greer said.
“Whenever an incident happens, we want to know that the cultures represented on those panels are sincerely interested in justice,” Greer said. “We want to make sure communities have a voice when it comes to these issues. Not a panel that is chosen by secret methods, but an actual panel that the community is involved in, in order to affect a resolution.”
The Police Department faced criticism for its use of excessive force when a young black woman, Rekia Boyd, was shot in the head and killed in 2012. Dante Servin, the officer involved in the shooting, is the first Chicago police officer in 17 years to face criminal charges in a shooting death. His court date has been set for Jan. 21, 2015, according to published reports.
“We’ve had so many instances of excessive force and police brutality right here in Chicago,” said Tio Hardiman, a former executive director of anti-violence nonprofit Cease Fire. “We’re hoping to see justice served. We have to work as a team to organize and deal with police brutality. If we don’t deal with it now, it’s going to continue to happen.”
The SCLC plans to open a new Chicago office next Spring, and Greer said that that office is necessary due to amount of violence in the city.
SCLC, in partnership with members of the National Bar Association, Cornel West, emeritus professor of PrincetonUniversity, and Hardiman, also called for the continuation of a national economic boycott targeting major corporations such as Target and Walmart. The campaign, which began with a boycott of Black Friday, is meant to show the “power of the community.” Advocates hope the economic impact of a boycott can provoke policy change, according to Greer.
In addition, the coalition has called for the resignation of Robert McCulloch, prosecutor in the Michael Brown case in Missouri. The grand jury there on Nov. 24, decided not to indict Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. Protests and civil unrest have affected cities nationwide since the announcement.
Ten days later, a grand jury in New York City refused to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, who died July 17 after being put in a chock-hold by the officer. Concerning the resignation request of McCulloch, Greer said, “officially, leaders of our campaign do not recognize this ruling as legitimate. This coalition is obligated to issue a vote of no confidence into the service, record and judgment of public official Robert McCulloch. We would ask that he would resign his post. In the meantime our public campaigns will continue. We want to look for peaceful means to resolve our situation.”