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Parents of Mike Brown take the struggle to United Nations forum

By Dr. J.A. Salaam Contributing Writer | Last updated: Nov 12, 2014 - 8:24:25 AM

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From Ferguson to Geneva

ST. LOUIS, Mo. ( - A delegation including the parents of Michael Brown, Jr., was headed to Geneva, Switzerland to present the case of their son slain by a White police officer in Ferguson, Mo., before a United Nations body at Final Call press time.

Leslie McSpadden and Michael Brown, Sr., parents of Michael Brown, a St. Louis youth who was gunned down by a White Ferguson, Mo. police officer on August 9, are seen here during a recent Hands Up Don’t Shoot protest with their hands up to bring justice and awareness to the wrongful killing of Black and Latino men across the country.
The group was led by Attorney Justin Hansford, a professor at the St. Louis University School of Law and a member of the Don’t Shoot coalition.

Attorney Hansford is very hopeful putting the case before the 53rd Session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture, which convenes Nov. 3-28, will bring attention to the constant violation of human rights, racial profiling and police brutality towards Black and Brown communities in America. The delegation departed Nov. 11.

“In the absence of justice from the local, state, and federal government, the family of Michael Brown and Ferguson protesters is ready to take our case before the global community,” said the opening to a report submitted by the delegation. “The goal is not only to achieve justice in Ferguson, but to unite governments around the world against the human rights violations that result from racial profiling and police violence,” it continued. Parents Michael Brown, Sr., and Lesley McSpadden were expected to make presentations Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 as part of a focus on police brutality inside the United States—and in Ferguson, Mo.

“On one of the worst nights of police violence, Sunday, August 17, 2014, police launched tear gas into crowds without warning even before the state imposed curfew went into effect and numerous children were tear gassed, including some young enough to be in strollers,” the report posted on said. “Eyewitnesses report that they were unable to escape the gas. That evening, police justified the indiscriminate tear gassing of several hundreds, including children, by the arrest of seven or eight people who may have engaged in unlawful behavior. The St. Louis Children’s hospital announced that it did indeed treat children who suffered from tear gas exposure, and photos of an eight-year-old victim were widely circulated.”

Malcom X urged taking the issue of human rights to the United Nations and we want to bring awareness that racial profiling, police brutality and human rights violations are not just local or national but global crimes we must fight, said the law professor.

“What’s happening in Ferguson is like the anti-apartheid movement. You see the U.S. policing the world but the world doesn’t see how America treats her citizens. The killing of Mike Brown, Jr., is significant because it is a fresh cut in an old wound and the pain can now be felt all over the world.” 

The report was submitted on behalf of the family of Michael Brown, the Organization for Black Struggle, Hands Up United and Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment. The report argues the killing of the 18-year-old unarmed Black male and excessive use of force by police officers on  peaceful protesters are violations of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Attorney Hansford participated in the Question Bridge panel discussion Nov. 8 hosted by the Association of Black Studies on the campus of Washington University. Question Bridge is an interactive forum created to give Black men a platform to discuss and dialogue about real life subjects. It focuses on dialogue between Black males of diverse backgrounds through film and social media.

Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams during discussions at a St. Louis university. Photos: D.L. Phillips
Multimedia artist Bayete Ross Smith, who founded Question Bridge in 2012, was joined by Grey’s Anatomy actor Jesse Williams, who accepted an invitation from senior Ashley Jeffrey, Association of Black Studies president, to participate.

“There’s about 200 members in ABS and we have to stay conscious and connected to what’s going on outside of Wash U.,” she said. 

The Saturday discussion question focused on why didn’t older Black men leave a road map or blueprint for Black youth to follow? This question was tackled by a very diverse panel of youth and elders, community leaders, protestors, like Montague Simmons, chair of the Organization for Black Struggle; Tory Russell of Hands Up United; DJ Kut of 95.5 FM; Prof. Hansford; and Michael McPherson, founder of Hands Up Coalition and St. Louis University student Jonathan Pulphus, who helped organize the Occupy SLU movement during the October Weekend of Resistance in St. Louis and Ferguson.

“I feel we need to continue these types of discussions to create more unity among us,” said Mr. Simmons.

There was a discussion of the upcoming grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson for killing young Brown over 90 days earlier. “This isn’t the civil rights movement; it’s the oppressed people movement. We cannot sit on the sideline and watch our people be shot down in the streets and not do nothing about it. The problem out here is that people don’t have enough L.O.C. (Level Of Commitment),” said Tory Russell of Hands Up United.

Tory Russell of Hands Up United

“Black males are one of the most feared, like the big boogeyman in this country. One thing we pride ourselves about this project is that it’s for us by us. We are able to put on lens of Black men from all walks of life,” actor Williams added.

Meanwhile in nearby Ferguson, tensions, doubts and fears kept increasing and pressure was building. An incident during a meeting with organizers and protestors at Greater St. Marks Church caused some concern after a young White male was accused of recording the private gathering after participants were told to turn off recording devices and cell phones. The young man was removed from the sanctuary and beaten outside the church.

“We not taking no chances, no telling who’s in here and we not playin,’ ” said Bud Cuz, one of the participants. Bishop Derrick Robinson said, “We are peaceful protestors and like family and when people come around us we have to question them to make sure they are really one of us and not there to cause trouble.” Bishop Robinson spoke at a press conference after the incident.

Over 300 people came out to hear a message by Student Minister Wesley Muhammad, Ph.D., of the Nation of Islam in St. Louis over the same weekend. Dr. Muhammad asked, “Does Black life matter only when a White man takes it?” He passionately spoke of Black on Black killings around the country. “You don’t know how powerful you are, you are a god but you are being a n----r, and you are being remotely controlled to do what you are doing,” he said. “The reason they are killing us so easily is because of the karma you are putting out. You keep killing yourselves as if Black lives don’t matter.”

“I see St. Louis to be the heartbeat of the country; it’s only fitting that the Black frustration here in St. Louis be the heartbeat of the new movement,” Dr. Muhammad said. “The only thing needed now is to match, to marry the right guidance with the right spirit that’s here in St. Louis and the guidance is that of the Honorable Minister Farrakhan and his representation here in St. Louis. This is a prosperous day for us not in terms of money but in terms of the advancement to the overall cause of justice for Black people in America, Allah willing,” said Dr. Muhammad. Meanwhile, the Justice for Michael Brown Leadership Coalition and the Coalitions and Religious Leadership in Saint Louis were also scheduled to announce a “No justice, No profit” boycott on Nov. 12.