Civil rights leaders called Thursday for the federal government to intervene in criminal investigations into the deaths of two unarmed black men killed by police.
Officials from the National Urban League, the National Action Network and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People condemned the law enforcement response to both the cases of Michael Brown, who was shot by a Missouri police officer on Aug. 9, and Eric Garner, who died after being held in a chokehold by New York police earlier this summer. Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., the parents of Michael Brown, joined Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network said police offers need to be held accountable for the deaths of both men.
“Whether they wear blue jeans or blue uniforms, criminals must be held accountable,” Sharpton said. The news conference took place as Police Chief Thomas Jackson of Ferguson, Mo., publicly apologized to Brown's family, weeks after often violent clashes in the St. Louis suburb over the shooting drew national attention.
Brown’s parents did not publicly comment on the police chief’s apology, but Sharpton said Thomas’ response was “too little, too late.”
“The answer is justice for this family,” Sharpton said. “Now to come with an apology when the family is here asking for the Justice Department to come in is suspect at best."
A grand jury has been convened in Ferguson to determine whether or not charges should be brought against the officer responsible for Brown’s death. The grand jury proceedings have been wrought with uncertainty, and local civil rights leaders have suggested an indictment may not be coming. The Department of Justice is also investigating, looking into whether there were any civil rights violations at the time of the teen’s death.
But civil rights leaders said Thursday they want more. While they are in Washington, the families of Garner and Brown are set to meet with members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have convened for their annual legislative conference about federal legislation to end racial profiling and better monitor police activity. The leaders also announced an upcoming march to bring the “Hands Up” protest movement sparked by Brown’s death to the nation’s capitol.