- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Echoing the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” cry of protesters in Ferguson, protesters gathered outside the Justice Department in the District to demand the agency take action in response to the shooting of unarmed Missouri teenager Michael Brown.

Michael Brown was all of us,” said Verna Avery-Brown, speaking in front of the assembled crowd Wednesday. “We can’t just wait until it happens to our family.”

Ms. Avery-Brown, the host of WPFW’s “What’s at Stake” show, said that for her four sons, she’s “just ‘Mom.’ “

“I’m representing the mothers that are sick and tired of seeing their young men shot down like animals,” she said to applause from supporters, who held aloft white crosses with the names of young black people who were killed by law enforcement officers.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, the executive director of the No FEAR Coalition, said she helped organize the rally to draw greater attention to the issues people are facing when dealing with the police.

“We can no longer remain home and remain silent,” she said. “Issues are really taken to a different level when the population takes to the street. This is really where democracy occurs.”

The few dozen protesters that attended chanted “Justice for Michael Brown, racist cops: shut ‘em down,” and bore signs such as one that read “SWAT: Stop Weaponizing American Towns.” After the rally, which drew at least as many onlookers and passers-by, demonstrators attended a town hall meeting about police violence against black men.

The Aug. 9 shooting of the 18-year-old Brown by a police officer set off protests in Ferguson, Missouri, where it occurred, and nationwide. The incident has renewed debates about the role of police in society and their increasing access to military equipment.

The officer involved in the shooting, Darren Wilson, said Brown attacked him and posed a danger.

The Obama administration has largely remained neutral, calling for calm in Ferguson while investigators try to get to the bottom of what happened the night Brown was shot. The Justice Department has already launched an investigation after protesters feared Ferguson police would try to sweep the issue under the rug.

But Ms. Coleman-Adebayo said they are demanding more from the DOJ, including the immediate arrest of Officer Wilson, who “murdered a teenager in cold blood,” she said.

Outside the front entrance of the Justice Department building, the protesters delivered a letter to a representative of the agency, laying out several demands — including life sentences for cops who kill unarmed civilians, the removal of military equipment from police forces nationwide, and assigning each police officer a “body camera” that would record their actions and help provide an impartial record of their interactions with people.

Marvin Hall, 59, said he came down to the rally to support changing the way police treat young black people and other minorities.

“If we don’t do something, it will just continue,” he said. “We have to let them know this is not acceptable.”