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Civil rights leaders declared Thursday that the grand jury system is broken when police are investigated for killing civilians — and they promised to push to fix it in a “year of change” in 2015.
They spoke on the morning after thousands of people took to the streets in New York to protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, in July as he gasped: “I can’t breathe!”
Last week, a grand jury in Missouri declined to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. The civil rights leaders said Tuesday that prosecutors and grand juries had abdicated their responsibilities.
Marc Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, said it bordered on “prosecutorial malpractice.” The Rev. Al Sharpton, who hosts a show on MSNBC, said that local prosecutors are hopelessly conflicted when they deal with police.
“The grand jury systems on a state level are broken and seem to lack the capacity to deal with the police when you are dealing with questions of criminality and killings,” he told reporters. Of the Garner case, he said: “You’re going to keep choking him after he says 11 times, ‘I can’t breathe’ — and that is not enough to go to trial?”
Sharpton said the Brown and Garner families would attend a march in Washington on Dec. 13 to demand more federal involvement in cases of police killings. Morial promised a civil rights summit early next year.
“This is a time in this nation, this is a moment, where our consciousness is shocked,” he said.