The Leaders of the Urban League Movement including National Urban League President and CEO Marc H. Morial Urban League of West Michigan President and CEO Joe Jones and all affiliate presidents hereby issue the following statement in response to the civil unrest sweeping the nation:

Our communities are overwhelmed with grief and people are angry. We are heartsick over the inhumanity we have witnessed in the recent deaths of Breonna Taylor George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and so many other unarmed African Americans whose names we call out in our families and communities each and every day – all of whom will not be forgotten nor will their loss of life be in vain. We are appalled by the callousness of law enforcement authorities across the nation who continue to shrug in the face of evil.

Cities across the nation have erupted in anguish over the last few days. As civil rights leaders who are committed to racial and economic justice we share the protesters’ pain and the heartbreak of the communities where uprisings have turned violent. We advocate for spirited but non-violent protests out of deep concern for the safety of our citizens and law enforcement and for the destruction of communities and businesses that may take decades to rebuild.

Most of the demonstrators have been engaged in peaceful protest but others have incited violence and fostered destruction. We refute any attempt to discredit the just cause for which Black people and indeed people of all races are marching based on infiltrators often from outside our communities who are bent on sabotage. We support the right of citizens to engage in nonviolent protest and thank all who have joined our non-violent protests and movement. And we equally condemn any and all use of excessive force by law enforcement to dispel demonstrations or retaliate against protestors. This is a time to listen to the voices of our community and craft plans for action together.

The protests represent what Martin Luther King Jr. famously called “the language of the unheard.” When George Floyd begged for his life as Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin cavalierly pressed his knee into a handcuffed and subdued Floyd’s throat for almost 9 minutes the handcuffed man cried out but his voice was ignored and unheard by law enforcement who had been sworn to “protect and serve” all citizens. The onlookers pleading with Chauvin to “stop” were unheard.

Cries for justice have gone unheard long enough and at the Urban League we say “Enough is Enough."

The long-overdue arrests of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers and all of the officers involved in George Floyd’s death are merely first steps in a long journey toward justice. We join in the calls from all parts of the nation for the fundamental and systemic changes in policing and the institutional racism that permeates every pillar of our society throughout the country.

The Urban League Movement pledges to work collaboratively across generations with all who seek racial and economic justice and a world that respects honors and protects Black people and the diversity our country represents. We must LISTEN to each other and learn from each other and respect each other’s viewpoints without putting each other down. We must find our common ground and then UNITE in the struggle.

We will continue our work to support our community through the COVID-19 pandemic with PPE re-employment and housing assistance. We will continue and expand our work with our elected officials civic business faith-based civil community organizers and young leaders in the fight for our rights to build the pathways to positive sustainable and actionable change in the weeks months and years to come.

Our immediate focus as a National Movement and the Urban League of West Michigan is announcing today locally that we will be reaching out to work with our local regional and state agencies of law enforcement community partners and the respective elected officials of these jurisdictions to collaborate and advocate for specific recommendations under our New Day Police Reform and Accountability Initiative. The focus of the initiative will include but not be limited to:

  • Advocating for a new system of accountability and unified voices that make clear that law enforcement departments and their officers will be held accountable for their actions that will include dismissals and swift justice in the form of criminal charges when laws and department protocols are broken.
  • Collaborate to conduct a legislative environmental scan of State of Michigan and other jurisdiction laws to identify antiquated unjust laws that are rooted in racial profiling and racial bias to change/abolish.
  • Advocate for the widespread use of body cameras and dashboard cameras throughout Kent County.
  • Re-evaluation and revision of use-of-force policies and practices.
  • Public access to the records of officers’ excessive force complaints.
  • Officer training hiring and background check verification standards to include social media platforms.
  • Review provisions of police union contracts to identify potential obstacles to police accountability.
  • The immediate appointment of independent prosecutors to investigate police misconduct when encountered.
  • Enable Citizens Review Boards with investigative subpoena and accountability power.

Even more than these measures we will advocate for an across the board reset of our culture and commitment to civility. Our culture today is fueled by divisiveness racism explosive rhetoric and all too often hate. Ours is a culture that teaches a white woman walking her dog in Central Park that she can weaponize racially motivated police brutality to enforce her own preferred social code. It is a culture that allowed a policeman to murder a suspect while he was recorded on video and we watched in horror - as the victim begged to breathe and onlookers stood by pleading for his life. The examples of incivility are too many and too common and we will work to change that narrative and behavior across cultures religions generations and systems for good together.

As we pursue measures to reform policing in our communities we call upon all community leaders elected officials and social institutions to join us in setting policies that promote racial reconciliation and equal justice.

Along with our focus on law enforcement policies and practices we also are developing ways to reenergize our efforts to tear down the systems of institutional racism that are deeply rooted across all sectors of American life (housing, workplace, health, criminal justice, small business development and civic engagement). We welcome and will seek the engagement of our young leaders for justice to listen to their concerns views strategies and techniques as we know we will learn much and experience growth from our collaborations together.

We call on all in our community to stand vigilant and with us to effect change through immediate action we can all take now that will advance our families and communities by:

  1. Completing your Census Form Today so we can bring vitally needed resources to our community
  2. Exercising your right and duty to run for office and vote in upcoming federal state and local elections. Research the candidates for President District Attorney Judges councilmembers commissioners representatives senators school board members and more.
  3. And last but not least we must UNITE and hold our elected leaders and law enforcement officials accountable and work TOGETHER to undertake sustainable institutional and systems change to ensure civil and economic justice for all.

We WILL rebuild a society and AMERICA that reflects mutual respect and supports Black people and us all. The Urban League is ready to put an action agenda for change to work TOGETHER.



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