More than just a case: Why NC youth are traveling to Ohio to walk 11 miles #BlackLivesMatter

“I saw my son get murdered by the police. It was worse than Ferguson.”

That is what John Crawford’s father said after he was allowed to see six minutes of footage from the Beavercreek Walmart in Ohio where police gunned down his son on August 5. John Crawford was shopping in the Walmart and was holding a toy airsoft rifle when another shopper called the police and described a “Black male about 6 feet tall” waving a gun. The tape has not been released to the public, and a grand jury is meeting September 22-24 to decide whether the officer will be arrested.

In the past month the murders of Mike Brown and John Crawford have received national attention. Not only did unarmed black men get shot dead in public places by state funded officials, but the institutions responsible have colluded to cover up, launching media campaigns to shift public perception by demonizing the victims.  These cases are not simply murders by individual officers but symptomatic of structural racism and the funding of state sponsored violence against black and brown youth.

The criminalization of black and brown people is not isolated to Ohio or Ferguson. In North Carolina high school student, Jesus Huerta, was handcuffed in the backseat of a police car in Durham, NC when he was fatally shot in the head. Jonathan Ferrell was murdered by the police, shot 10 times by an officer after seeking help when his car crashed in Charlotte. In NC, a black driver is 223% more likely to be searched than a white driver during a stop for a seat belt violation, and a Latino driver is 106% more likely to be searched. The results of these racist stops are that people are pushed out of their jobs and schools and into the criminal justice system.

The case of John Crawford is more than just a case in Ohio, it is an example of the state sponsored violence being carried out against communities in the United States. When law enforcement and institutions like Walmart refuse to make information public, thwarting the pursuit of justice by a community, it sets a precedent across the country. We have seen these cover-ups and abuse of power in NC and that is why we are mobilizing to join the Ohio Student Association for Freedom City September 22-24.

We will participate in an 11 mile “Freedom Walk” from the Beavercreek Walmart where John Crawford was killed to the courthouse in Xenia where the grand jury will be meeting. The walk will end in a rally and occupation of the courthouse grounds.

We are walking 11 miles not only for justice for John Crawford, but for all lives ended by police and for the dismantling of a system that allows it to continue. We will not accept a future where black and brown people are criminalized for their existence. We are marching in Ohio for justice for John Crawford and our own liberation. This is more than just one case, these are the lives of people and our communities. #BlackLivesMatter #OurLivesMatter

This statement was written by Irving Allen, D’atra Jackson, Bree Newsome and Bryan Perlmutter

Irving Allen is a community organizer at the Beloved Community Center and the fellowship coordinator at Ignite NC. He has worked to build community and youth coalitions both in Greensboro and throughout the state of NC. Irving has played an intricate role in organizing initiatives such as the civilian review board addressing police accountability in Greensboro.

D’atra Jackson is the Organizing Director at NC Student Power Union. Getting her master’s degree from FIU she established a Dream Defender chapter at her school. D’atra has been one of the organizers of fighting back against police brutality in Durham. She recently organized a conference of youth from across NC to take action on issues that affect their lives.

Bree Newsome is an organizer and leader in the Charlotte community. Bree continues to organize around police brutality in Charlotte. She is a co-founder of Stay Up NC, a singer/songwriter and filmmaker.

Bryan Perlmutter is the Director of Ignite NC and staff at the Youth Organizing Institute. He was among the first 17 people arrested at the first Moral Monday in NC. Bryan has helped fight back against the School-To-Prison-Pipeline in Wake County changing school discipline policy and police power in schools.