What’s the Endgame for the Civil Rights Movement, Part 2?

Protesters in Boston hold up their hands and chant “Hands up, don't shoot!” on Dec. 4, 2014, as they protest the decision by a Staten Island, N.Y., grand jury not to indict a police officer who used a choke hold in the death of Eric Garner in July.
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Justifiable outrage and protests are sweeping through major cities like a Hunger Games brush fire. Traffic jams and sit-ins are holiday du jour while politicians anxiously switch up on their talking points. Black parents find themselves in tear-filled horror when the kids are out and don't answer the cellphone.

The tipping point of the civil rights movement, part 2, is here.

But worried observers and skeptics alike are asking a key question: What’s the endgame? The burden of a radical policy change should be on state, local and federal governments. But some onus will fall on the many protesters attempting to lead in the storm. People watching it all unfold—from passionate citizens putting their lives at risk to block highway traffic, to disgruntled commuters stuck in that traffic—want to know the objective. It’s fantastic to see youth getting involved—but like any job, project or task, every major undertaking has a set of performance metrics attached to it. When will protesters know when they’ve achieved their goals?


For insight on that, The Take turned to activists on the ground, a legislator waiting to draft a bill, a frustrated Ferguson, Mo., resident taking things into her own hands and a talk show host figuring it out from afar.

Jasiri X: What’s the demand? That’s semantics. The demand is to stop killing us, to stop shooting us.  When we see police officers being held accountable, we’ve reached our goal. We need new prosecutors. Right now we can be killed and there is no justice for our people. And it’s got to be more than diversity training or more funding for body cameras. You can turn cameras and mics off. President [Barack] Obama is offering too little, too late. No one wants to hear from this dude. He tells us we should protest peacefully, but he doesn’t pay attention to us for the 100 days that we did.


Missouri state Rep. Clem Smith (D-District 85): You have a million groups, but none of them are talking to each other. The intentions are pure and positive, but I don’t believe they're working together. And while I see a lot of them on social media, they aren’t talking to elected officials. In order for the real changes to happen, the organizations must sit down with the legislators. We’re the ones who have to craft the laws and introduce them. In order for this to work, we all have to be on the same page and working from the same playbook.

Mo’Kelly: Any movement must include a clearly defined set of goals. Protesters should be pursuing civilian oversight of police and change of states’ use-of-lethal-force statute. Instead we have countless discussions of “Hands up, don’t shoot.” President Obama has made his appeal for police body cameras, which is like treating the sniffles when suffering from pneumonia. Video alone did not save Eric Garner, John Crawford, Tamir Rice and others. We must be courageous enough to confront the engagement practices of law enforcement as well as the judicial process that provides cover for it.


Ferguson resident Shay Williams: I would hope our community will get active in the political processes and active within the community, and get cooperation from the police to get police reform. I think that these groups should nominate a spokesperson and that these leaders come together and make a list of demands so that we are all fighting as one unit. A great performance benchmark would be that we impeach the mayor and a couple of council people to show that we know our rights, then go after the prosecutor. I understand President Obama’s political stance, but I am hurt because it should affect him more deeply as an emotional issue. The most powerful man in the United States is being held hostage by the same system that is screwing us. He can write an executive order for immigration, but he cannot write an executive order to appoint special prosecutors.

Charles D. Ellison is a veteran political strategist and a contributing editor at The Root. He is also Washington correspondent for the Philadelphia Tribune, a frequent contributor to The Hill, the weekly Washington insider for WDAS-FM in Philadelphia and host of The Ellison Report, a weekly public-affairs magazine broadcast and podcast on WEAA 88.9 FM Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter.

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