* Missouri-based group demanding that society “address the ongoing systemic problems of police practices in black, brown and all oppressed communities.”
The Don’t Shoot Coalition (DSC) was established in the immediate aftermath of an August 9, 2014 incident where a white police officer named Darren Wilson shot and killed an 18-year-old black male named Michael Brown, who had forcibly robbed a convenience store in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri a few minutes earlier. Brown’s death instantly sparked widespread accusations of police misconduct and racism—particularly from high-profile sources such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the New Black Panther Party—and led to several days of violent rioting and looting by local blacks.
DSC is co-chaired by Denise Lieberman (a senior attorney with the Advancement Project and a former legal director of the ACLU‘s Eastern Missouri branch) and Michael McPhearson (executive director of the Veterans For Peace St. Louis chapter. The Coalition’s most public spokesperson is Montague Simmons, leader of the Organization for Black Struggle, a group founded in 1980 “to fill a vacuum left by the assaults on the Black Power Movement.”
Among DSC’s 45 coalition members are the Advancement Project, Amnesty International, the Catholic Worker Community (St. Louis), Jewish Voice for Peace (St. Louis), Missouri NOW, Missourians Organizing for Reform & Empowerment (MORE), the National Organization for Women (Missouri), the New Black Panther Party, the Palestine Solidarity Committee (St. Louis), the PICO Network, the Service Employees International Union‘s “Healthcare Missouri” project, and Veterans For Peace. To view a comprehensive list of all DSC member groups, click here.
An analysis in the American Thinker notes that all of DSC’s coalition members are united by the common thread of “some grievance against an authority—police, corporations, or otherwise—that they feel has abused their rights, or the rights of others.” “The eclectic composition of the DSC,” adds the piece, “suggests that it assembled, not as a coalition of persons who see themselves as long standing victims of police brutality, but as collegial progressive activists who, when summoned to align behind the meme of police brutality against young black males, signed up in a shared spirit of victimhood.”
From its inception, DSC issued a set of demands that included: “justice for Mike Brown and other cases of police brutality in the St. Louis region”; “an expanded Department of Justice investigation into patterns of civil rights violations by police”; “an end to ongoing racial profiling across the St. Louis region”; “civilian oversight and review of shootings and other allegations of police misconduct”; “ongoing initiatives to ensure that local law-enforcement departments represent the communities they serve”; and efforts to “promote the vote, so that our democratic institutions appropriately represent all segments of our communities.”
In addition to the demands listed above, DSC called for Ferguson/St. Louis-area police to abide by Rules of Engagement stipulating that they: “wear only the attire minimally required for their safety”; wear “specialized riot gear” only as “a last resort”; refrain from using “crowd-control equipment such as armored vehicles, rubber bullets, rifles, and tear gas”; “not interfere with the free flow of information through tactics such as … interception of cell or other mobile conversations”; keep out of “safe houses [that are] considered sacred ground”; “allow protests to take and occupy larger and more disruptive spaces than would normally be tolerated”; “be tolerant of more minor lawbreaking … when deciding whether to escalate the use of force”; and refrain from engaging in “intimidation and harassment of protesters.”
On October 22, 2013, DSC submitted to the U.S. Justice Department an extensive list of recommendations for improving the “abysmal state of policing in North St. Louis County.” Specifically, these items stipulated that:
When compelling ballistic, eyewitness, and forensic evidence eventually (in late October 2014) indicated that Michael Brown in fact had assaulted Officer Wilson and tried to steal his gun just prior to the fatal shooting, DSC nonetheless continued to denounce the young man’s “murder” as evidence of “the ongoing crisis of police-on-black crime.” Moreover, the Coalition emphasized the need for society to “address the ongoing systemic problems of police practices in black, brown and all oppressed communities.”
On November 24, 2014—immediately after it was announced that the grand jury investigating the death of Michael Brown would not indict Officer Wilson—DSC issued demands for “a thorough Federal investigation of possible criminal violations by Officer Wilson”; “amnesty for all those engaging in protest activity including dismissal of all state, county and municipal charges against individuals participating in civil disobedience since the August 9, 2014 shooting”; and “police practices and criminal-justice reforms that address systemic and prolific racial bias in policing.” DSC co-chair Michael McPhearson, for his part, said, “We will redouble our efforts to secure justice for Michael Brown and demand police and criminal-justice reforms across the board. We learned a long time ago that police are not held accountable for killing people and especially not black and brown people. Instead, law enforcement and the judicial system have been used most aggressively and unfairly against us.” The Coalition’s other co-chair, Denise Lieberman, said: “We will not allow the Grand Jury’s decision to set us back. We view this as a beginning, not an end. We look forward to working with people from all concerned communities to bring a new era of change and end the fear and suffering of communities targeted and harassed by police.”