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Young Activists Push Obama on Police Reform
12/31/2014 11:09:52 AM

President Obama and senior staff gets an earful from Ferguson youth leaders.
By Freddie Allen

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – In an oval office meeting that some have called “historic,” a group of young activists met with President Obama to discuss the crippling effects of police brutality in the Black community, the militarization of police departments and the need for systemic reform that sparked months of protests following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed Black teenager, in Ferguson, Mo.

The young activists list of demands included: the demilitarization of local police departments, investing in community-led restorative justice programs, and enhancing data collection of police activity at the federal, state and local levels.

Tef-Poe, a St. Louis hip-hop artist said that the movement is gaining traction among young people and a bridge is also being built between the young activists and the older generation.

“People are starting to jump on board at an alarming rate and the next move is to sustain this and to push for real comprehensive accountability concerning racial profiling and police brutality,” said Tef-Poe.

Following his meeting with community stakeholders faith leaders and law enforcement officials on building trust between police and the community, President Obama said that when any part of the American family does not feel like it is being treated fairly, that’s a problem for all of us.

“It’s not just a problem for some. It’s not just a problem for a particular community or a particular demographic. It means that we are not as strong as a country as we can be,” Obama said. “And when applied to the criminal justice system, it means we’re not as effective in fighting crime as we could be.”

The president announced a number of key proposals, including the creation of a task force that will identify best practices to build stronger ties between police departments and the communities they serve, reforming the controversial 1033 program and promoting the use of body cameras. The president said that he wants to invest $263 million, including $75 million to buy 50,000 such cameras.

According to a recent review of federal programs that send equipment to local law enforcement agencies (LEAs), “the programs reviewed do not necessarily foster or require civil rights/civil liberties training and they generally lack mechanisms to hold LEAs accountable for the misuse or misapplication of equipment. This variation among federal agencies makes tracking the overall effects, use and misuse of federal or federally-funded equipment difficult.”

Although the group was encouraged by some of the president’s proposals, Ashley Yates, co-founder of Millennial Activists United, a St. Louis-area civil rights group, said that there needs to be youth voices on the task force as well.

“There needs to be people of the Black community that are activists in that room, there needs to be people of the Black community who are most affected by this oppression in that room,” said Yates. “You have to allow space for people who are affected by this militarization and police brutality to define their oppression, so that we can actually frame the problem correctly.”


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