Community Influencers on Newark's Police/Minority Relations

Levi Holmes, President of Newark Bronze Shields and Zellie Imani, lead organizer of Black Lives Matter, discuss their perspectives on the police/minority relationships within Newark communities.

1/21/17 #640






"We're pleased to be joined by Levi Holmes, president of the Newark Bronze Shields, and also Zellie Imani, who is the lead organizer at Black Lives Matter. I want to thank both of you for joining us. Folks, we just finished a very compelling and honest conversation here in Newark called "Building Trust: Race, Police, and the Community" at the North Ward Center, and both of you were part of a 12 person panel discussion. Zellie, let me ask you. Your biggest takeaway from that discussion? There wasn't unanimity. There wasn't agreement across the board, but people put it out there. Your biggest takeaway? My biggest takeaway, I think, was a lot of disappointment... disappointment that we had some of the largest officials in policing today who cannot really outwardly condemn some of the police violence that has occurred in our country. So, I want to put things in perspective. You will see my colleague, Michael Hill, from NJTV, co-hosted, co-anchored this conversation. You will see the special that we put on the air, and you'll judge for yourself. And I want to put this in perspective. We actually talked about the Eric Garner case in Staten Island, where he was literally choked out on the streets of Staten Island. He was selling loose cigarettes. He was saying multiple times, "I cannot breathe. I can't breathe." He was choked out. And your interpretation was that some of the law enforcement professionals were saying it wasn't clear cut that what happened was unjustified. That's your interpretation. What was yours? Well, I know for a fact that there are plenty of law enforcement professionals who disagree with the verdict of the jury, who feel as though Eric Garner was senselessly killed. And we feel that way, as well, the Newark Bronze Shields. But to Zellie's point... Mm-hmm. ...this is what is so interesting about this. What I kept pressing and Michael Hill, my colleague, kept pressing is, "What can we agree on?" There are certain things we can look at and say, "We agree, but this is horrific, unjustified, and is murder." And then some say, "Well, it's more complicated." Do you say? Well, I understand the police officers' ambivalence in terms of describing what happened, but at the end of the day, it was wrong. And from a police perspective, you always analyze what happened in terms of the proper technique. Could the officer hear what Mr. Garner was saying? There's always these different questions that come about. But in that situation, it was wrong. And there's no two ways about it. You know, Zellie, you've also said, and you've been awfully outspoken. And, by the way, the Bronze Shields are African-American law enforcement professionals. Correct. You have said that the idea of..."