At a time when many are asking what the long-term solutions are to the social and criminal-justice issues being raised by the killing of Michael Brown, a coalition of legal experts and advocates have stepped forward pledging their services.
In a letter drafted and signed by 45 individuals from local law schools, firms and other service providers, the coalition has come together to "work towards changing the current situation of distrust and divisiveness." The letter lists several areas of concern, including the "nationwide problem of the death of, and violence against, youths in communities of color" and the policing of youth from those areas. As Washington University School of Law professor Mae Quinn points out, the shooting death of eighteen-year-old Brown all began as a traffic stop.
"Many of these cases stem from criminalizing normal adolescent behaviors that aren't otherwise criminalized except in communities of colors," she says.
Included in the 45 signatures are professors from Wash. U. School of Law, St. Louis University Law School, the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, St. Louis Youth Advocate and individual law firms. One of the signed firms, the ArchCity Defenders, is already hard at work demanding that the city of Ferguson declare amnesty for residents who have warrants out due to unpaid fines for nonviolent offenses, such as unpaid traffic tickets (read all about this proposed amnesty here). Quinn says she is currently gathering signatures from the coalition to support the amnesty.
Here is the group's letter in its entirety, as well as the signatures:
Members of the Saint Louis advocacy community on recent events in Ferguson, MO
August 24, 2014 St. Louis, Missouri
As members of the Saint Louis advocacy community, we represent faculty, attorneys and other service providers who, through our work, pursue justice in our region and beyond. First, we offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Michael Brown and to all who have been touched by this tragedy. We hope that through our collective efforts, we can all work together to heal and begin to receive answers to the many questions and concerns that we have about the events that transpired.
We are especially concerned about the following:
-- The nationwide problem of the death of, and violence against, youths in communities of color. Respect needs to be taught, exemplified, and reinforced.
-- The militarized policing tactics used against members of the community this past week, the myriad First Amendment violations, and apparent resistance to transparency and information sharing. We must begin to address and remediate these issues.
-- The need for police training and accountability concerning conflict resolution, use of weapons and tear gas, protection of constitutional liberties and rights, and appropriate levels of response that should be used in a variety of situations. We should not ignore improprieties, constitutional violations, and unjust deprivations of rights and liberty as we find or search for the right balance of order in our communities.
-- The need to work towards solutions regarding the underlying causes of racial, social, class-based and educational inequality, discrimination and division, as well as other causes that led to the frustration and distrust illustrated in Ferguson but are present throughout the region. Historic examples include social, educational and economic instability, and lack of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities must be addressed.
We hope that we can help address these issues and focus on solutions. We stand at the ready to engage in debate and dialogue, to offer legal and other assistance, and to otherwise support both individuals and the community at large as appropriate. By joining together, we can work towards changing the current situation of distrust and divisiveness to one of collaboration, cooperation and the promotion of justice.
Signed by: Doug Williams, Professor of Law Saint Louis University Law School
Professor Patricia Lee, Director, Legal Clinics Saint Louis University Law School
Professor John J. Ammann Saint Louis University Law School
Professor Brendan Roediger Saint Louis University Law School
Professor Justin Hansford St. Louis University Law School
Professor Amany Ragab Hacking Saint Louis University Law School
Professor Steve Hanlon Saint Louis University Law School
Kimberly J. Norwood, Professor of Law Washington University School of Law
Annette Appell, Professor of Law Washington University School of Law
Mae C. Quinn, Professor of Law Washington University School of Law
Maxine Lipeles, Senior Lecturer in Law Washington University School of Law
Elizabeth Hubertz, Lecturer in Law Washington University School of Law
Beth Martin, Lecturer in Law and Science/Engineering Director Washington University School of Law
American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri
Thomas Harvey, Founder & Executive Director ArchCity Defenders
Michael-John Voss, Founder, Managing Attorney & Director of Finance ArchCity Defenders
John McAnnar, Founder & Special Projects Director ArchCity Defenders
Ester Haywood, President NAACP, St. Louis County Chapter
Kendra Howard, President Mound City Bar Association
Hedy (Edna) Harden, Chair Missouri CURE
Elad Gross, President and CEO Education Exchange Corp.
Lara C. Meier, M.Ed, LPC
Joshua Saleem, Peace Education Program Director American Friends Service Committee
Allison Lageose St. Louis Youth Advocate
Kendan Elliott St. Louis Youth Advocate
Danny-Edwards Luce Job Training Coordinator/Social Services
Aubrey Edwards-Luce, JD/MSW St. Louis Youth Advocate
Amy Faerber, JD St. Louis Attorney
Rochelle Moore St. Louis Youth Advocate
Emily Nishi St. Louis Youth Advocate
Anna McNulty Taylor, Teacher & Department Chair Northwest Academy of Law, St. Louis Public Schools
Susan C. Lampros, Teacher Northwest Academy of Law, St. Louis Public Schools
Krista Germann, Teacher Northwest Academy of Law, St. Louis Public Schools
Ronald Jackson, President Black Leadership Roundtable
Tracy and Dan McClard, Founders Missouri Families and Friends Organizing to Reform Juvenile Justice
Anthony M. Califano, JD St. Louis Attorney
Inga Buchbinder, MSW St. Louis Youth Advocate
Sarah K. Molina, JD Molina Immigration Law, LLC
Robert E. Caldwell, Jr., JD McMichael & Logan
Ken Heineman, JD McMichael & Logan
James Wyrsch, JD Khazaeli Wyrsch, LLP
Javad Khazaeli, JD Khazaeli Wyrsch, LLP
Arif Haque, JD Border Crossing Law Firm, P.C.
James Westbrook, Director Mission St. Louis, Beyond Jobs Program Haden Smith, JD Southside Legal Services
Email the author at Jessica.Lussenhop@RiverfrontTimes.com.