OPP support statement regarding Ferguson protests and ending unequal treatment of people of color

The Oregon Progressive Party (OPP) stands in solidarity with the people of Ferguson MO in their struggles for justice in a system based on injustice, especially for those whose skins are black or brown. The immediate issue is the killing by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, of a young black man, Michael Brown, compounded by the refusal by the local grand jury to indict that officer on any charge. While the grand jury's refusal to indict was expected, still the people of Ferguson are outraged. And the people of all America are outraged not only by this white on black killing but also because of the system of injustice represented by this process is only a symptom of the institutional racism and classism present in America today.

African Americans encounter a New Jim Crow system on a daily basis.

It jails young black men at a rate 6 times higher than white, largely due to drug sentencing disparites. According to a report by the NAACP, “5 times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites,” and “African Americans represent 12% of the total population of drug users, but 38% of those arrested for drug offenses, and 59% of those in state prison for a drug offense.” http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet

The system keeps those black men in jail longer than white men. Again, quoting the NAACP, “African Americans serve virtually as much time in prison for a drug offense (58.7 months) as whites do for a violent offense (61.7 months).”

And when they get out of jail, they encounter an unemployment rate double that of white America and many states don't allow felons the right to vote.

Regarding death by police, black men were 21 times more likely to die as a results of police shooting than white men. http://www.propublica.org/article/deadly-force-in-black-and-white

In a report on Democracy Now, it was stated that the rate of death of black males has reached a proportion higher than the rate of lynching during the first Jim Crow era.

For justice to be served, the Oregon Progressive Party calls for US Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Officer Darren Wilson to the full extent of federal law. That is the first and most immediate step.

But taking that step will not be enough to change the structural basis of racism in America today. We must address such questions as why black Americans suffer under this revised Jim Crow system. We must address (1) how and why black Americans are stopped on the street, (2) how and why they are removed from school, (3) how they are charged and convicted by the legal system at rates way out of proportion to their numbers in America, (4) how the system fails to provide educational opportunities, (5) how the system fails to give former felon back the right to vote. We must also cease the efforts in many states to disfranchise African Americans as voters.

Part of the structural problem affects African Americans in particular as well as people of color and poor whites.The increasing income and wealth disparities have made our society one of the most unequal in the developed world and threatens to make permanent a two class system of urber-wealthy and the rest of us. African Americans, people of color and poor whites must unite in support of specific government policy to address this.

One such policy would be a national increase in the minimum wage to be a living wage. $15 per hour has been suggested and implemented in several cities recently and we note that several governmental bodies here in the Portland metro area which negotiate with unions have established $15/hour as the lowest wage they will pay.

Another policy is a requirement for paid sick days. Such an effort will start at the local level, first with cities and counties passing such laws and/or rules and then spreading to the state level and hopefully then to the national level. Enactment of such a policy must allow most rigorious policies at other levels - in other words, if a state passes such a law it must leave open the possibility that a lower level of government might estabilish a more protective policy.

We must as a nation establish health care as a human right. Health care should be universal, affordable and of good quality. Obamacare is a step in the right direction, but it requires the purchase of private health insurance. Health insurance does not provide universal health care. We need and must enact a single payer system such as the Canadian system or an improved version of Medicare for all Americans.

Here in Portland changes in police practices are called for. OPP has already issued its call for all police to be equipped with body cameras. That should be implemented immediately.

The Albina Ministerial Alliance Coalition for Justice and Police Reform has called for these reforms and OPP supports these demands:

1. A federal investigation by the Justice Department to include criminal and civil rights violations, as well as a federal audit of patterns and practices of the Portland Police Bureau.

2. Strengthening the Independent Police Review Division and the Citizen Review Committee with the goal of adding power to compel testimony.

3. A full review of the Bureau's excessive force and deadly force policies and training with diverse citizen participation for the purpose of making recommendations to change policies and training.

4. State legislation to narrow the language of state law on deadly force used by police officers.

5. Establishing a special prosecutor for police excessive force and deadly force cases.

The Oregon Progressive Party recognizes that once again we have reached a historical opportunity. We must take it and change the world.

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