The parents of slain teenager Michael Brown and 43-year-old Eric Garner delivered emotional pleas for justice for their children at a Thursday morning press conference. They are calling for the law enforcement officials responsible for the deaths of Brown and Garner to be held accountable and for systemic changes that will hopefully prevent future similar tragedies.
The families traveled to Washington, D.C., to request federal reviews into their sons' killings from both Congress and the Justice Department.
Lesley McSpadden, Brown's mother, expressed dissatisfaction in the way officials in her state are handling the investigation of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson and the circumstances under which he shot her son.
"Missouri has not showed us anything that we're looking for," she said.
Michael Brown Sr. said that he wants to make sure that another family doesn't experience what his has.
But just last week in South Carolina, one family nearly did after a state trooper, Sean Groubert, shot Levar Edward Jones, who was unarmed as he reached into his car to get his license. Grouper was fired after the incident and on Wednesday was arrested and charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison. Jones, fortunately, is recovering at home from a shot to his hip.
Months after her son Eric Garner died from a chokehold, Gwen Carr is still waiting for answers and, more important, some action.
"It's time that we got justice for these heinous crimes committed against our loved ones," she said. "It's hard enough to lose a loved one, but to lose a child is almost unbearable."
Even worse, she added, is the way that Brown and her son died. They may have made mistakes in the past, but nothing they've done warranted a death sentence, including at the time when their lives were cut short.
She also noted how swiftly officials in South Carolina charged Groubert, whereas in her case, the police officers involved are "sitting back and getting paid." Their guns and badges were taken away, Carr said, "but so what? They still go home every night to their families."
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represented Trayvon Martin's family and has been retained by the Browns, also spoke at the press conference, which was organized by the National Urban League, National Action Network, NAACP, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and National Bar Association.
According to Crump, the Browns plan to ask members of the Congressional Black Caucus to hold hearings on Capitol Hill on their son's shooting death. Public findings, he said, would not only be instrumental in answering questions about what happened to Brown, but also help form a body of data that can be used in other similar cases.
"What we need so much, not just in Ferguson, is transparency. If we don't have it, [distrust between communities and law enforcement] will only get greater," Crump said. "We need to be able to trust that our law enforcement officers work equally for everybody."
He also said it is essential that all police officers wear body cameras and said he's "dumbfounded" that it's not a nationwide requirement. Let that be Michael Brown's legacy, Crump said, so that there's no more guessing about what happened during fatal police shootings.
In other news, Rev. Al Sharpton, head of the National Action Network, announced at the press conference that his and other civil rights groups are planning to convene a "hands up" march on Washington this fall.
Both Sharpton and NUL president Marc Morial were hesitant to believe the news about Attorney General Eric Holder's plans to step down. Holder has been an outspoken ally to the civil rights community and an advocate for communities like Ferguson.
"I think the administration is committed and we certainly would encourage the president, if the reports are true, to appoint an attorney general with an equal commitment to civil rights enforcement as Holder demonstrated," Morial told BET.com.
Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick.
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(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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