A ruling by a Rockford, Ill., grand jury that the two White police officers were justified in shooting to death a 23-year-old unarmed Black man should be enough to trigger a review of the entire review of the city’s judicial system, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Saturday.
"This is symbolic of something deeper than this shooting,” Jackson said at a news conference at a day care center in Rockford, where the incident took place. “The makeup of the police department – vertical and horizontal – the fire department makeup and the judges makeup. Who's in jail, who's in school. It's now time to investigate – the whole judicial process should be under investigation."
The Chicago-based civil rights leader is demanding that the U.S. Justice Department launch a federal investigation into the Aug. 24 shooting of Mark Anthony Barmore inside the church-run day care. He is also calling for the House and Senate Judicial Committees to hold public hearings in Rockford. The residents of Rockford, Jackson said, deserve an outcome that is "just and fair."
Without justice and fairness, Jackson said, racial tensions will continue to rise.
Several witnesses say that Barmore had surrendered to Officers Oda Poole and Stan North in the basement of the Kingdom Authority Church, contradicting the account by police who contend that Barmore tried to attack them.
But the investigation by Illinois State Police corroborated the officers' stories, and last week the grand jury concurred.
"The grand jury has told a grand lie," said Steven Muhammad, a spokesman for the Brown family.
"It's the worst Christmas I ever had. Unbearable," Barmore's father, Anthony Stevens, told NBC-TV Channel 13 in Rockford.
Barmore’s mother, Kelli Harrington, said, "This whole ordeal has been a mockery of justice, and I feel like if I don't stand up and fight for this, then my son died in vain."
But Jackson, urged angry and saddened family and friends to concentrate on ensuring justice.
"Don't get bitter, get better," Jackson said. "Remain focused. Use our collective strength, our marching feet to fight until something happens that's just and fair."
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