Re: The Murder of George Floyd, Police Violence and Racism in the United States

To His Excellency United States Ambassador to Kenya

June 9, 2020    0 comment


The Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA) represents Kenyans in the international diaspora including over 100,000 who are residents, studying, or working in the USA. The Bandung Conference is an international NGO based in Kenya. The Africa Diaspora Alliance (AfDA – under formation) is an amalgam of a number of transnational and historical diaspora organizations. The Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) based in the United Kingdom has actively been engaged in international human rights that protested the beating of Rodney King to the US Ambassador in London when the police officers were acquitted of his assault at first instance. The SBL met to show our solidarity with the Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General, The Right Honourable Eric Holder, on the morning in August 1998 that the US Embassy in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam was bombed.

All of the above organisations and their affiliates have a long history of fighting for justice and human rights around the world. We wish to bring home to the United States Government our deep concern with the failure to protect the life of George Floyd and many other African Americans over the years. We watched with horror the slow-motion and barbaric murder by the white police officer, who reportedly had 14 complaint citations against his name but was still on active duty. The disproportionate use of force over an allegation of passing a forged $20 bill is sadly typical of what many African Americans live through every day.

We note that the United States was born in a baptism of oppression, lynching and systematic racism that has for centuries targeted African Americans. The claim by the National Security Adviser that there is no “systematic racism in the police forces of the USA and that 99.9% of police officers are good Americans is palpably false. The experience of African Americans as being six times as likely to be stopped and searched by the police across the United States is unacceptable evidence of systemic racism. The continuing shooting of unarmed black men and women over various administrations is a national disgrace. Since 2015 some 4,728 people have been reportedly shot/killed by police in the United States, of whom a disproportionate 1,252 were African American, 877 Hispanic and some 214 from other minority groups. Despite constituting only 13% of the U.S. population they represented 26% of those shot.

The killings of Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardiner, Walter Gray, Matthew Abijade, Eric Harris, Paterson Brown Jnr, Walter Scott, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, and Attaiana Jefferson, and numerous others are the context in which this killing must be seen. These are not the actions of occasional “bad apples” but a significant proportion of police officers. The United States’ claims to condemn human rights abuses around the world rings hollow in face of the continued blatant killing of African Americans by an increasingly militaristic police force.

Police killed some 100 unarmed black men in 2015 alone, five times the number of unarmed white men who were shot (i.e. 36% of unarmed men killed that year). Only four officers were ever convicted and none were sentenced to more than four years imprisonment. The reality is that “black lives” do not seem to matter to police officers in the United States and there is de facto impunity for their killing of unarmed black civilians.

We do not support looting, retaliatory violence, or unrelated criminal activity; however, we denounce the twitter feeds of U.S. President Donald Trump of “glorying violence” terming Minneapolis protestors “thugs”, and pronouncing that “when the looting starts the shooting starts”. This is a direct quote from the racist Miami Police Chief, Walter Headley and adopted by the segregationist George Wallace the following year. The President’s comments that protestors would be met by “vicious dogs and ominous weapons” showed no remorse or understanding for the pain that has already been inflicted on African American communities for many years.

These comments made by any public official are irresponsible and inflammatory but when said by the President of the United States are highly likely to inflame passions and divide communities immeasurably. We strongly urge the President and his administration to uphold the Constitutional right of all Americans, including African Americans to protest peacefully. This call for unity has apparently been undermined already by the President himself, appearing to direct the violent clearance of peaceful protestors in Lafayette Park in Washington DC, before he posed for cameras with a copy of the Bible, although with no attempt to heal the nation or lead a call to prayers. Threats of deploying the U.S. military on American soil, save at the invitation of State Governors are unconstitutional and do nothing to heal the divisions within society. The comments of former Defence Secretary James Mattis are entirely appropriate.

We urge all US Governors and Police forces, whether Federal or State to act with restraint and not to deploy curfews, tear gas, and the disproportionate use of batons, tasers and firearms. The scenes of continued police brutality and violence deployed against largely peaceful protestors have already led to a loss of life and could simply exacerbate the situation.

We urge the US President and Federal and State Governments to arrest and prosecute the remaining three police officers to the full extent of the law and to act with magnanimity and restraint to the numerous demonstrations taking place.

Nine Point Plan For Institutional Change

  1. A wholesale demilitarization of police forces, devolving nonpolice services to unarmed civil authorities, and the immediate ban of all chokeholds by all police forces throughout the United States;
  2. The creation of an effective and robust system of combating the institutionalized racism within all law enforcement agencies, to be monitored by an independently elected body, in consultation with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the NAACP.
  3. The creation of an independent National Federal Police Oversight Commission, with power to monitor and regulate the performance of all 18,000 police departments in the USA, implementing the adoption of a policy of “zero tolerance” when instances of police brutality and use of excessive and deadly force arise;
  4. An annual report to be produced by the U.S. Department of Justice to be presented to the House Judiciary Committee, and to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Torture on the implementation of the strategies adopted above.
  5. To remove the personal immunity that protects individual police officers from civil suits being filed by members of the public, and to impose a clear duty on police officers to de-escalate all encounters before force is used.
  6. The adoption of the civil standard of proof to vet, and discipline police officers, who can be suspended from active duty or removed from the force;
  7. The mandatory creation of Civilian Review Boards to hold all 18,000 police forces locally accountable to their individual communities.
  8. To condemn the use of US military forces against unarmed civilian on US soil contrary to the US Constitution.
  9. The US Department of Justice to urgently consider applying the concept of “majority jury verdicts” where murder and/or manslaughter is alleged against law enforcement officers.

In conclusion, we note that this killing comes at a time when there is untold suffering of African Americans, disproportionally affected by the Corona Virus Pandemic where we note with the deepest condolence that over 104,000 Americans have died, with some 40% being African American. As Dr. Martin Luther King stated in Selma, Alabama, “the question that needs to be asked is not who killed him but what killed him”. We pay tribute to the family of George Floyd and his legacy of humanity and fully support his lawyer Benjamin Crump, a past President of the National Bar Association.

We urge the most vigorous action to ensure that all Americans, including African Americans enjoy full protection under the U.S. Constitution, namely the fundamental right to life. That does not exist at the present time.

Signed,

Judge D Peter Herbert O.B.E.
Chair Bandung Conference Kenya, Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, (United Kingdom)
Dr Shem Ochuodho
Chairperson, Kenya Diaspora Alliance (KDA)
Representative, Eastern Africa Region, AU ECOSOCC (Economic, Social & Cultural Council)
The Honourable Dr Willie Mutunga, EGH, SC, Immediate Past Chief Justice and President of
the Supreme Court, The Republic of Kenya
Mr Donald Deya, CEO, The Pan African Lawyers Union;
Professor P.L.O. Lumumba;
Dr Patricia Lamour M.B.E.;
Dr Joseph Masika OAM
National President,
General Forum For Arabic and African In Diaspora Organization‐Australia
Cc:  Chairperson, AU Commission
US Ambassador to AU
Addis Ababa
Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Kenya
Nairobi
Rt Honourable Bella Ribeiro‐Addy M.P.
Rt Honourable Claudia Webbe M.P.
The President of the National Bar Association (USA)
The Congressional Black Caucus, (U.S.A.)
Benjamin Crump, Counsel for the family of George Floyd

Also in support of the Letter:‐
Dr Sidi Jammeh, Washington DC, USA
Chair Emeritus, Worldbank Group ‐ Africa Staff/Society
Co‐Chair, Africa Diaspora Alliance (AfDA – under formation)

Beldina Auma, Nairobi, Kenya
Chair Emeritus, Worldbank Group ‐ Africa Staff/Society

Dr Joseph Masika, OAM
National President, FAADO‐Australia (Forum for Arabic & African in Diaspora Org‐Australia)

Dean Muluzi
Director, Zambia Diaspora Foundation
Chairman, African Union ECOSOCC, Zambia Chapter

Dr Shiro Chiro, LA, USA
Co‐Chair, Diaspora Covid‐19 Taskforce

Six Region Diaspora Caucus

The Charleston Remembrance Committee

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