NEW YORK, Oct 23 — Film director Quentin Tarantino joined activists in New York’s Times Square yesterday to launch a fresh push for US police reform and justice for unarmed victims killed by officers.
The Oscar-winning filmmaker joined writers, clerics, intellectuals and actors to read the names of around 250 men, women and children to die at the hands of US police.
Around 40 bereaved families travelled across the country to take part in RiseUpOctober, three days of events demanding an end to police violence and reform of the criminal justice system.
Among the names read by Tarantino were Michael Brown, 18, whose death in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 sparked a national protest movement, and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot dead playing with a toy gun in Cleveland, Ohio in November 2014.
A database compiled by the Guardian newspaper says more than 920 people have been killed by police in the United States this year, of whom 436 have been white, 226 black and 142 Latino.
“Rise Up, Rise Up to end police brutality and murder!” said American playwright Eve Ensler, best known for writing feminist play “The Vagina Monologues”.
Gun ownership laws mean that US police are at a greater risk of encountering armed suspects than in other Western countries.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund estimates that one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States on average every 60 hours.
On Tuesday, a New York police officer was killed by a suspected robber in Harlem, becoming the fourth such officer to be shot dead in the line of duty in the last 11 months alone.
Grammy Award-winning musician Arturo O’Farrill called the officer’s death a “tragedy” at yesterday’s rally.
Has to stop
Campaigners say that police unfairly profile black and Latino men.
They criticise militarised tactics, and demand independent investigations into cases of people who die while in custody.
“The entire justice system needs to be dismantled,” said Hertencia Petersen, aunt of 26-year-old Akai Gurley, who was mistakenly killed by police in Brooklyn in November 2014.
Victims remembered yesterday ranged in age from an 11-month-old baby to a 92-year-old black woman, shot dead when officers got the wrong address on a drugs bust.
They included blacks, Latinos, American Indians, Africans, US veterans, men, women and transgender people. A significant proportion were mentally ill.
The circumstances of their deaths ranged from the tragic to the trivial.
These include an Egyptian-Palestinian debate champion who jumped from the window on a bad mushroom trip, then shot in the chest, and a mother in her 30s who dropped her children off at a police station because she could not look after them anymore, then died after being kicked by an officer, since convicted of assault.
“I tell you, brothers and sisters, this has to stop,” said Nicholas Heywood, whose 13-year-old son was shot dead by police while playing with a toy gun in Brooklyn in 1994.
Organisers plan to demonstrate in Queens today, demanding the closure of Rikers Island prison in New York, and to march through Manhattan tomorrow.
Separately in Florida, relatives and friends of Corey Jones, a 31 year-old African-American musician shot dead when he encountered a plainclothes police officer after his car broke down, marched demanding justice.
“There is a pattern going on,” said 62 year-old protester John Hepburn.
“When police are right, we support, them but not when they do wrong.”
During the protest outside the Palm Beach Garden police station the crowd waved signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” a nationwide rallying cry protesting police brutality towards African-Americans.
Hepburn, 62, carried a sign that simply read: “We die for having car problems” — AFP