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End militarization of police, confront systemic racism

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AFSC's St. Louis program works with high school students to help them lead the transformation of their community and undo unjust systems that perpetuate violence, oppression, and inequity. Photo: Jon Krieg / AFSC

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is saddened and shocked by the tragedy—and the aftermath—of the killing of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014. The pain of the past few days has been magnified, not because the death of Michael Brown and Ferguson are so extraordinary, but because they are so ordinary.  

With alarming frequency, police use overwhelming lethal force on unarmed young men and boys of color. Ferguson is typical of communities of color in which power remains in the hands of the white minority. Two-thirds of Ferguson’s population is African American and almost 80 percent of the Ferguson/Florissant School District is African American. Yet the mayor, police chief, 90 percent of the police force, and the majority of city council are white.

People in Ferguson, justifiably upset over a senseless killing, exercised their right to assemble and peacefully protest. The police responded in military garb, heavily armed, accompanied by dogs and armored trucks, and attempted to intimidate them. This overbearing response has drawn national and international attention to the issue of police brutality in communities of color, and to conditions that contribute to injustices throughout our criminal justice system.

Building on decades of work on social justice, human rights, and the effectiveness of nonviolence, AFSC is committed to fostering healing, justice and equality in Ferguson, across the U.S., and around the world.

In recent days in Ferguson, AFSC has been helping youth process the killing of one of their peers. Through our two-year-old Peace Education Program working there and in St. Louis, we continue to equip youth with conflict resolution and community organizing skills. We have reached out to teachers offering support and help to diffuse tensions. We are standing with the family of Mike Brown, and with the community organizations marching and protesting to hold police departments across the region accountable.

All of us can, and must, do more. AFSC is raising emergency funds to support healing and recovery for the entire Ferguson community, and support their ongoing organizing to end unjust policing and to prevent another Mike Brown tragedy.  

As a Quaker organization that believes in the worth of every person, we call on people of goodwill—especially those with privilege and power—to join us in addressing the systemic and structural racism at the roots of Mike Brown’s death—and that of so many others nationwide. Challenge your local media when they stigmatize youth of color instead of celebrating their humanity, achievements and promise. Challenge policies—by school districts and legislatures, from Missouri to Washington D.C.—that disproportionately incarcerate people of color and boost profits for corporations running jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers.

Our nation will only prosper when we invest in all our children. Join us in our urgent work to bring an end to militarized police forces and the systemic racism that feed callous disregard for the lives of young people like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin.