“If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected — those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! — and listens to their testimony.”
― James Baldwin
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
― Angela Y. Davis
George Floyd took his final breath on May 25, 2020, as officer Derek Chauvin pressed the weight of his knee and body on the unarmed and fully compliant citizen’s neck. Three other officers participated in the modern-day lynching of George Floyd. They did this with impunity and as onlookers caught the heinous killing on their phones and cameras.
George Floyd’s death was not an anomaly. Instead, it represents hundreds of years of police violence towards Black people and the United States’ systemic inaction. This inaction followed the deaths of countless others, from Trayvon Martin to Eric Garner, to Tamir Rice to Breonna Taylor. These lives matter.
Apathy and inaction are no longer an option. In response, cities across this country have erupted with anger and grief because “despite only making up 13 percent of the US population, Black Americans are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by the police.”
Police killing with impunity cannot be allowed to continue. As an organization founded on the values of Justice. Liberation. Healing we know this is a moment to speak up and stand with the Black community in ending state-sanctioned violence and killings. This moment requires more of each of us (as systems, organizations, and individuals). We are being called to show up and change the status quo.
At Root & Rebound, changing the status quo means throwing the weight of our organization — a team of lawyers and advocates — many of us directly impacted by the criminal legal system — behind a direct response across the core areas of our work. We commit to expanding the way we work in direct legal services, advocacy, and public education to meet the needs of our country and our communities at this moment in time.
We must respond to and treat state-sanctioned violence and brutality with urgency. That’s why we have decided to take the following steps immediately.
Here’s what we commit to, today and every day:
(1) Through our public education work, we are sharing Know Your Rights Resources for people when it comes to protesting, interacting with the police, enforcing their First Amendment Rights and their right to peacefully assemble. We will also be sending anyone who contacts us information about financial resources that exist for bail and other financial needs. We also commit to putting out anti-racist education and communication across all that we do.
- We will create a Know Your Rights training for anyone who has been arrested during these uprisings — and their families and loved ones. The first training will be on 6/17 at 12 pm PST.
(2) Through our direct legal services, we will provide free legal support to people in the communities we serve — South Carolina and California — who have been criminalized and arrested during the unrest and uprisings that have followed George Floyd’s killing. Anyone who has a criminal record as a result of this interaction is included among the community we set out to work with at the outset of our work.
- We will intentionally and specifically take calls on our free legal hotline related to police violence and advising anyone who has been arrested during the uprisings and developing ways to coordinate with public defenders who are representing thousands more people charged with crimes, and working with people who have not been given an attorney to support them.
- CALIFORNIA HOTLINE: Call our Legal Hotline at 510–279–4662 or email us at email@example.com. Fridays, 9 am-5 pm PST.
- SOUTH CAROLINA EMAIL HOTLINE: firstname.lastname@example.org
(3) We will work in coalition with other organizations to advocate for changes to policing: to end the militarization of the police, to push for alternative first responder programs and restorative justice models of peace-keeping, to advocate for mandatory and intense racial bias screening in hiring police officers and ongoing racial bias training as well as police oversight committees that have real decision-making power — as long as the police system as we know it is in place, and to ensure accountability, not impunity, for police who kill civilians like George Floyd. Today, the police are regularly shielded from accountability for excessive use of force. A central contributing factor to this impunity is the legal standard by which police officers’ use of deadly force is evaluated: the United States Supreme Court has established the Constitutional boundary to be one of “reasonableness” and a “sense that their lives are at risk” which in practice creates a wide breadth of discretion for police action and “justified” use of force, while making it difficult to hold officers accountable through the criminal legal system.
- This work is an extension of our existing advocacy to reduce the size, scope, and scale of our jails and prisons across the country, and to eliminate and reduce community supervision — police that operate as parole and probation officers — in our clients' lives.
(4) As an organization with fundraising, operations, and programs needs and expenses, we will make an intentional effort to support local Black Businesses in procurement of goods and services.
(5) Internally, we commit to creating an environment for our staff which reflects an equitable and liberated society that we do not see in the world at large, but that we believe we can create here. This means spaces for community support, a continuing commitment to diverse staff/leadership, a commitment to our team’s mental and physical health, family life, and well-being, and activism days that allow staff to participate in direct actions happening in their communities. We continue with a commitment to confront racism, whenever directed to our staff, partners, clients and allies.
“Gianna does not have a father. He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle. If there’s a problem she’s having and she needs her dad, she does not have that anymore…He was a good man”
— Roxie Washington, the mother of George Floyd’s daughter.