Al Sharpton calls for ACLU?investigation of Deloatch case
Civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton is using his prominence to work toward bringing the American Civil Liberties Union to New Brunswick to investigate the Sept. 22 shooting of Barry Deloatch.
“We will do everything we can do to get them to review this case,” he said to a cheering crowd last night at a police brutality and street violence forum sponsored by the United Youth Council at the Sharon Baptist Church on Howard Street.
Speaking to about 200 New Brunswick and Middlesex county residents, Sharpton said he wants the ACLU to investigate the New Brunswick Police Department’s conduct.
Sharpton, who came to the forum directly from his live show on MSNBC, said there was a difference in how police deal with white and black communities within the same towns. He said there should not be a different standard depending on location.
“This country will never work until it works equally for everybody,” he said. “We are not asking to be treated differently.”
Sharpton said the problem was two-fold. A combination of police misconduct with gang violence and thug culture are large factors in the lack of community reaction.
“They are told they are acting white, so then being inarticulate and stupid is being black?” He said. “You cannot create this climate of terror, where you think we will fight for you to be a hoodlum and a thug.”
Gina Bowser, founder of Zakee Bowser Enrichment Foundation, lost her son to gang violence. She said the community was responsible for the deaths of the youth.
“The Ku Klux Klan never has to march again,” she said. “We’re killing our own selves.”
Bowser advised the community to take action before the police become involved.
“We need to come together. We need to take back our streets. We need to police our streets,” she said.
Sharpton said the black population should stop the use of the n-word, because it perpetuates a lack of respect.
“Don’t allow yourself to become merchants of negativism, especially by calling [each other] by disrespecting names,” he said. “We must demand that the NBPD respect us, but we must show how we respect each other. It’s also about us.”
United Youth Council Chairman Salaam Ismail said the group held the forum to teach the community about their rights as citizens and to inspire activism concerning what needs to be done in the city.
“This is a teach in. This is not a town hall meeting. This is not a rally. This is not a speak out,” he said. “There are experts here, to educate [the community] on various different subject matters.”
Attendees also learned about projects working to reduce gang violence.
Terry Murray, founder of the “Streets” project, an organization that tries to re-educate low-income communities, said his son Terry Murray Jr. was gunned down in 2008 in Elizabeth N.J., and a suspect was never caught because the community did not speak to the police.
“There was a code of silence on the street. Nobody was going to snitch and that code of silence put a criminal back on the streets,” he said.
Elizabeth Police Department Detective Daren Williamson pushed the community to help the youth to change their focus and idols, including rappers. He said in police community relations, education is the key to future.
“Do not drop your books in exchange for guns,” Williamson said. “We need to be prospects and not suspects.”
Alexandra Lawson, an attorney with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the community needed to learn what the rules of law are to avoid being wrongly arrested.
“In the event that you are in the situation, if you think the arrest was illegal, even if you do not believe you were rightfully arrested, you can’t resist arrest,” she said. “You need to fight it out in court.”
Religious leaders also spoke at the forum and encouraged the community to step up to stop violence in the community.
Rev. Kevin Jones of the Sharon Baptist Church said he was disappointed in the community’s inaction before the shooting of Barry Deloatch. He said the community must keep working together to enhance the community relations.
“It’s a shame that we have to wait for a tragedy to happen for us to act,” Jones said.
Minister James Muhammad of the Nation of Islam Prison Reform Ministry in Birmingham, Ala., said individuals spending their money on alcohol and excessive food are wasting the community’s money.
“Gangs do not come out of nothingness. They fill a void that is empty,” he said.
Walter Hudson, a community activist, asked the New Brunswick residents in attendance to use the advice the speakers gave.
“I hope you use the knowledge that is given to you after you leave the church. Do not leave the knowledge,” he said. “It is empowerment for you to go out into the streets and fight the injustices.”