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Activists call for operational unity after police killing of young, Black man

By Brian E. Muhammad, Staff Writer | Last updated: Dec 12, 2018 - 7:09:53 AM

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(l) Attorney Faya Rose Toure speaks at community event. (r) Residents joined activists and community organizers at “Justice Unity” meeting Dec. 5 to call for operational unity in aftermath of police shooting of Emantic Bradford Jr.

Sustained protests are intensifying in Hoover, Alabama in the fight for justice for Emantic ‘EJ’ Bradford Jr., who was shot to death by police who were responding to a gun fire call inside the Riverchase Galleria shopping mall there. Police admitted they killed the wrong man in what is being widely seen as an act driven by wrong judgment and racial profiling.   

Leading voices of a new generation of activists came together at a “Justice Unity” meeting, Dec. 5 at Muhammad Mosque No. 69 in Birmingham, Ala. to strategize and commit to working as a united front of organizations. 

“When you look at what happened to EJ, and what we’re doing through our demonstrations, we’re fed up with not being heard and not being taken seriously,” said Carlos Chaverst Jr., political strategist and a protest leader. The 25-year-old activist has been mobilizing daily protests in the aftermath of the Nov. 22 shooting, that he and other organizers vowed will continue in Hoover.

“The reason we do what we do (is) because we never know when it could be us. To prevent it from being me, I’m going to fight for you,” Mr. Chaverst Jr. said.

 “Brothers and sisters a lot has changed, yet nothing has changed, and I am so pleased to be among people who want change,” said veteran activist attorney Faya Rose Toure, during the community gathering.

Ms. Toure praised the young activists for uncompromisingly standing up at this time. “Alabama has been too silent, too long,” she said. “We are at a critical stage in our struggle, but I am encouraged because there is a movement going on in Birmingham, Ala. “Nobody should go to Hoover to buy a single thing,” she added referencing the organizers economic boycott of Hoover.  


Student Minister Tremon Muhammad and activist Carlos Chaverst Jr.
“This is even bigger than EJ,” said Tremon Muhammad, student minister of the local mosque who hosted the forum.

“EJ’s life was sacrificed for a bigger cause. We need to remember this young brother for the rest of our lives,” he added. Student Minister Muhammad said years from now they would remember this beginning of a new movement, which is really an old movement.  “One hundred years later, we’re still here fighting for justice,” he said.

Student Minister Muhammad shared words of guidance from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan who he consulted with before calling the activists together. “He told me to be bold, be courageous, be truthful, but most of all be wise,” Student Minister Muhammad shared.

He said Minister Farrakhan spoke about the importance of “operational unity” which will allow different organizations to work in harmony. He compared it to the human body.  “The organs in the body do not work against each other … they are all out for the survival of the organism,” he said.

Student Minister Muhammad addressed critics of the demonstrations: “If it were not for the protesters, EJ would have been just another dead Black man …you should not be criticizing them, you should be thanking them.”

Cara McClure with Black Lives Matter said she is “super proud of the protesters” and spoke on how important their presence was at the meeting. She said protesting should be a transformative experience.

“I believe when you show up for protest, something should happen on the inside of you … that changes your life forever,” Ms. McClure said. “Protest is important because we protest for our humanity, and we shouldn’t have to constantly negotiate our humanity,” she added.

“We’ve seen this before. In Ferguson, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Sanford, Florida  and Selma,” said Le’Darius Hilliard, president of the Jefferson County Millennial Democrats.

“We are at a time now where if they don’t know that we ain’t playing … no change will take place, nothing will get done. If we don’t stop traffic on I-65 and make everybody getting off work, feel uncomfortable for three or four hours … If we don’t shut the whole city down, nothing will happen,” Mr. Hilliard said.

Since an independent autopsy and forensic analysis obtained by lawyers representing EJ’s family revealed the young man was shot three times from the back, many are saying it was a cold-blooded murder. The killing sparked outrage and calls for murder charges against the unidentified cop.

Brian Wilson,18, of Birmingham and a 12 year old girl, who police say was an innocent bystander were wounded. Erron Brown, 20, of Bessemer, Ala. was arrested Nov. 29 in Atlanta and charged with attempted murder of Mr. Wilson in the shooting.  There are questions if the police may have shot the 12 year old. 

The Bradford family attorney told the organizational meeting EJ’s case is part of a larger issue in the justice system. Black men are seven percent of America’s population, 40 percent of the U.S. prison population and nearly 50 percent of death row inmates.

“Either Black men are some evil, nefarious, thuggish, criminal-minded people, or the criminal justice system is broken,” said Attorney Ben Crump, adding, “I refuse to believe that Black men are worse than any other men walking the face of the earth.”

The family and supporters are demanding video footage in the hands of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency be released. Protestors want Hoover’s Mayor Frank Brocato, police Chief Nick Derzis and police Capt. Gregg Rector to resign.

Nightly actions in the streets included demonstrations at Mayor Brocato’s home; major highways being shut down and targeted disruptions of major business chains interfering with holiday season profits. It’s a turning point for activism and justice struggles in Alabama, note activists.

“I’ve never witnessed this unity amongst the activists and organizers in Birmingham,” said Ms. McClure on Facebook.