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SCLC calls press conference for justice in Florida
BY RAVEN JOY SHONEL, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Representatives from Florida’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference converged in St. Petersburg on Tuesday for a press conference to discuss not just the happenings in Ferguson, Mo., but the injustices happening across America.
Of course, the Ferguson, Mo., tragedy is on the forefront of everyone’s mind. Michael Brown and a companion were confronted by an officer as they walked back to Brown’s home Aug. 9 from a convenience store. Brown and the officer were involved in an altercation, which left the unarmed Brown shot dead with six bullets in his body.
Unfortunately peaceful protest has given way to rioting and looting and the National Guard has had to descend on the streets of Ferguson to reign in the violence.
Jeffery Copeland, executive director of the Pinellas County SCLC said the SCLC stands together in unity with the Pinellas County Urban League, the African People’s Socialist Party and State Representative Darryl Rouson on the subject of “injustices happening across America to young black males.”
“We are here to wake up America,” said State Chairman of the SCLC Art Rocker. “This issue is extremely prevalent, and it is so prevalent that it is all over America. We can’t take on America; therefore, here with the state of Florida SCLC we decided that our concentration will be in Florida.”
The Florida SCLC called the press conference held at Advantage Financial Services on 22nd Street South, to inform the state of Florida police that they will not stand by and allow them to continue to kill unarmed people just because of their race.
“We will not continue to stand by and allow once again our people to be killed,” said Rocker who went on to explain that where he is from in Escambia County, they do not hire minorities as deputies.
Rocker said that the SCLC will go to the Department of Justice and demand the creation of a hotline for citizens to report abuses of power by police.
The Florida SCLC State President R.L. Gundy out of Jacksonville went a little further when he asked citizens to take control of justice in America.
“We also want to initiate in the state of Florida a cop watch program from now on,” said Gundy. We are encouraging everybody in the state of Florida that is riding around in their vehicles to start using their phones to photograph all police stops and start putting their recorders on so that we can actually hear what these police officers are saying to these people when they stop them.”
Gundy also suggested forming a committee to conduct independent investigations of alleged police misconduct.
“We can no longer allow sheriff departments and police departments to have the fox inspecting the hen house. Whenever there is a police authority that shoots someone and they want to do their own investigation, we are encouraging every county, every SCLC office, every NAACP office and every community activist to ask the Justice Department to immediately step in and not the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the case,” exclaimed Gundy.
“Ferguson can happen anywhere,” said Rouson. “Instead of having press conferences after events, we want to have prevention conferences before they happen. And that’s why I’m here today, to say that I stand in solidarity with the hurting community.”
Members of the SCLC from Escambia, Duval, Orange, Dade, Manatee, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties were all represented at the press conferences.