Nation must address killings – call

Published: Monday 8th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Protests across the United States against police killings of unarmed black men have continued, with calls for nationwide dialogue and a “die in” in one city.

The deaths of Michael Brown, 18, in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, 43, in New York City led to “two of the worst weeks” in modern American history, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter said.

Mr Nutter, who is black, called for a review of police training.

In both cases, grand juries decided not to charge the white police officers involved, leading to days of protests in major cities.

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, whose wife is black, said there had to be “an honest conversation” about the history of racism in the US to help bring together police and the community, and has spoken openly about his concerns for his teenage son.

But Mr De Blasio declined to answer specifically when pressed about whether he respected the grand jury’s decision last week.

Mr Garner, caught in a chokehold that is not authorised by New York police, repeatedly gasped “I can’t breathe!” while he was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. The arrest was captured on video.

His widow Esaw said he may have had a history of encounters with police, but never resisted arrest.

New York City’s police commissioner William Bratton said an internal investigation into Mr Garner’s death could take “upwards of three to four months”. He said interviews of officers had already started.

Meanwhile protests in New York continued and in Philadelphia, about 200 people staged a silent “die in”, lying in the street for four minutes and 30 seconds to symbolise the four hours and 30 minutes that the body of Mr Brown lay on the street after he was shot by an officer.

Activist the Rev Al Sharpton announced plans for a march in Washington DC on Saturday to protest at the killings of Mr Garner, Mr Brown and others and to press for change at national level.

Politicians called for calm. “In our country today, there’s too much division, too much polarisation – black, white; rich, poor; Democrat, Republican. America does best when we’re united,” Ohio’s Republican governor John Kasich said.

William Brooks, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, Cornell, said police should be wear body cameras, something President Barack Obama has recommended, and called for a change in law enforcement policy.

“We have to change the model of policing,” Mr Brooks said.

Actor Jamie Foxx added his voice to the issue, calling for a tough dialogue in the wake of the killings.

“We’ll probably have to have a few uncomfortable conversations to sort of get things right, so everybody can walk and enjoy America like it’s supposed to be enjoyed,” he said at the New York premiere of Annie yesterday.

Published: Monday 8th December 2014 by The News Editor

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