The National Council of Elders (NCOE) Condemns Police Killing of George Floyd and Violence Against Protestors

We are members of the National Council of Elders, veterans of many of the social justice and peace movements of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. These have included the Black freedom movement, the Native Peoples, Chicano, anti-war, immigrant rights, peace, and LGBTQ movements. We were called into being by iconic civil rights leaders of the past: Rev. James  Lawson, Dr. Dolores Huerta, Dr. Vincent Harding, Rev. Phil Lawson, and Dr. Grace Lee Boggs.  Collectively we represent hundreds of years of social justice activism.

We are greatly alarmed by the brutal lynching of Mr. George Floyd in Minneapolis,  Minnesota by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday, May 25, 2020 (Memorial Day). The killing of yet another Black person at the hands of police has set off days of protests across the  U.S. and throughout the world. These demonstrations have been overwhelmingly peaceful.  However, President Donald Trump has called out the National Guard and has threatened to call members of the armed forces to “dominate” and quell the protest.  

Scenes of police beating, kicking, stomping, tasing, teargassing, using horses and automobiles to run down protestors — and in some cases, journalists, TV reporters, and camera crews — have flooded television and social media. By showing little to no restraint, the police are exemplifying the very behavior that thousands of our citizens are risking their lives to protest against — even during this COVID-19 pandemic.  

The murder of George Floyd is only one of many episodes of police brutality and excessive force that has plagued our communities for decades. Every instance of police violence against people of color recalls the history of unbroken links between the invasion and theft of native lands,  brutal slavery, and modern racially-biased policing.  

Young activists exhort us to “Say Their Names!” These are just a few of the most recent victims of State violence: Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Sean Bell,  Aiyana Mo’Nay Stanley-Jones, Amadou Diallo, Mya Hall, Walter Scott, Deborah Danner, Joel  Acevado, Atatiana Jones, Jamar Clark, Miriam Carey, Philando Castile, Tanisha Anderson, Ezell  Ford, Charleena Lyles, John Crawford, Shukri Said, Tamir Rice, and Breonna Taylor.  Unfortunately, this list of men, women, and children who have been victims of police violence will continue to grow until we demand an end to this ongoing slaughter. We are grateful that this  demand is being made powerfully by some of the most visible youth-led active movements of today: Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100), the Movement for Black Lives, and the Dream Defenders. 

We know that police killings are symptomatic of much deeper issues negatively impacting  Black, Brown, indigenous and impoverished people in the U.S.: High unemployment, the cradle to- prison pipeline, inadequate access to health care and housing, infant mortality, homelessness,  food insecurity, mass incarceration, and ongoing conflict in our communities resulting from the hopelessness of the day- to- day struggles for personhood and survival. For young people of color,  police use of force is among the leading causes of death.  

We agree with many young activists who say there is a “State of Emergency facing Black  people.” We believe that the entire concept of U.S. policing, which has been heavily influenced by racism and other forms of subjugation, must be rethought. The NCOE joins with social justice organizers across this country working to end police killings and to end the triple evils of materialism, racism, and militarism that are the foundation of the ills plaguing the United States.  We are committed to developing a culture of peace. How do we translate this commitment into concrete actions? We support the following proposals:  

Defunding police: Using those redirected funds to finance housing, health care, good jobs,  youth programs, community care workers, public transportation, parks, environmental protection,  recreation centers, arts programs, playgrounds, and other needed social programs. 

Demilitarize police: Police forces should be required to abandon and trash all military supplies and weapons they have acquired. Experiments should be undertaken to replace armed police with neighborhood peacekeepers. 

A reset of the entire criminal legal system in the U.S.: Police violence against people of color is only one facet of the deeply entrenched racial disparities within our criminal legal system. 

There is an urgent need for analysis and action at every stage of this system, from arrest to sentencing to incarceration.  

National Council of Elders Members: Ms. Rachele Agoyo, Ms. Dorothy Aldridge, Rev. Dorsey  Blake, Mr. Louis Brandon, Ms. Candie Carawan, Ms. Mandy Carter, Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz,  Rev. John Fife, Ms. Aljosie Aldrich Harding, Dr. Gloria Aneb House, Dr.Shea Howell, Dr.  Dolores Huerta, Mr. Phil Hutchings, Ms. Joyce Hobson Johnson, Rev. Nelson Johnson, Mr. Frank  Joyce, Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Phil Lawson, Dr. Catherine Meeks, Mr. Gus Newport, Ms.  Suzanne Pharr, Ms. Lyn Pyle, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ms. Frances Reid, Ms. Kathy Sanchez,  Mr. Charles Sherrod, Ms. Shirley Sherrod, Dr. G. Zoharah Simmons, Friar Louis Vitale, OFM,  Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Mr. Hollis Watkins, Mr. Junius Williams, Mr. Bob Wing, Rev. Janet Wolf.  

Deceased Founding Members: Dr. Grace Lee Boggs, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Vincent Harding,  Father Paul Mayer, Mr. Ron Scott.