The influence of black civil-rights leaders Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump on a fatal police shooting in rural Arkansas could lead to much-needed reform for American policing, according to a report at CNN.
Sharpton and Crump have tended to speak out on police-brutality cases where the victims are black -- largely because the overwhelming majority of victims are black.The victim in Arkansas -- 17-year-old Hunter Brittain -- was white. But Sharpton delivered the eulogy at Brittain's funeral, and Crump (along with Pennsylvania lawyer Devon Jacob) has signed on to represent the family. Are Sharpton and Crump involved because they recognize police brutality crosses racial boundaries, and they want to call attention to that fact? We certainly think that's possible. But a political calculation -- one that could be important to Americans of all colors -- also might be in play. From the CNN report:
The civil rights leader and the high-profile attorney, who Sharpton has dubbed "Black America's Attorney general," deemed the police shooting of 17-year-old Hunter Brittain "one of the most significant" cases in the fight to push Congress for landmark police reform legislation.
Attorneys Crump and Devon Jacob, along with Sharpton and representatives from the NAACP, were invited to attend Brittain's memorial on Tuesday at Beebe High School in Beebe, Arkansas.
Brittain was fatally shot June 23 by a Lonoke County sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop around 3 a.m. outside of a local auto repair shop along Arkansas Highway 89 south of Cabot, a Little Rock suburb, according to Arkansas State Police.
What raises the stakes on the Brittain case? CNN explains:
Crump told CNN . . that he believes Brittain's death could push lawmakers to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which has stalled in the Senate since early March as bipartisan negotiators attempt to reach a compromise on several key sticking points.
The attorney has represented the families of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Michael Brown and several other Black people who were fatally shot by police.
But Crump said the image of an unarmed, White teenager killed by police will start to change the narrative as the country sees that children of all races and ethnicities can be victims of police violence.
"That is going to be looked at differently because he wasn't a teenager who was a child of color," Crump said. "Because we've always said that our White brothers and sisters couldn't fathom their child being killed by the police. That people are supposed to protect them. But that's a reality that parents of children of color literally deal with every day of their lives."
Sharpton expanded on that idea:
In his eulogy, Sharpton said, "The issue of policing is not about Black and White. It's about right and wrong."Sharpton said this was the first time in his nearly 40-year career advocating for civil rights that he was invited to present the eulogy for a White person who was a victim of police brutality.
|Ben Crump in Arkansas|
Brittain's death has sparked protests outside the sheriff's office, as well as a proposal for a so- called "Hunter's Law" in the state.
A petition calling for officers and sheriff's deputies to wear and activate body-worn cameras during their entire shift has already garnered thousands of signatures.The George Floyd Act also contains a provision requiring body cameras and calls on federal law enforcement officers to activate them when responding to calls or initiating a stop "at the first reasonable opportunity to do so."
Statistics show that police brutality is both a black and white problem. By percentages, however, the burden falls disproportionatly on people of color:
Since January, 156 White people and 102 Black people have been killed by police, according to Mapping Police Violence, a database that collects data on police killings. That includes 14 unarmed White people and six Black people killed by police this year, according to the data. The database includes the number of off-duty police killings as well as incidents where police kill someone "through use of a chokehold, baton, taser or other means," their website states.Black people, who make up roughly 14% of the US population are three times more likely to be killed by police than White people, who account for 76% of the country's population, according to data from Mapping Police Violence.Crump, who has previously represented White inmates who were killed or died while incarcerated, said he had to "help give his (Brittain's) family the voice to say Hunter Brittain's life mattered.""I want to be able to talk to senators on both sides of the aisle and say, 'This isn't just about Black children, it's also about brown children and White children and Asian children,'" Crump said. "This is about our citizens being brutalized or killed because the federal government hasn't acted."Sharpton said he didn't know what to expect when he arrived in Arkansas for Brittain's memorial, but knew he had to "take the risk" knowing that it was a significant moment."I think it may have been (300) or 400 people there, maybe 20 Black, and for them to give me five or six standing ovations showed that this is a real possibility of us bridging, a real police accountability movement that is based on race, and class," Sharpton said, adding, "As I said in the eulogy, that if Hunter had been a rich guy in another part of the White community, would they have shot him like that?"