Four U.S. Congressmen held their hands in the air on Monday in a show of support for protesters incensed by the fatal shooting of 18-year-old African-American Michael Brown by a Missouri police officer.
The gesture, synonymous with the phrase “Hands up, don’t shoot,” has become the symbol of an expanding nationwide movement of communities critical of the state of law enforcement in America. A chief concern of protesters, who’ve taken to shutting down major roadways in U.S. cities like New York, Los Angeles, Oakland, Denver and Seattle, is the asymmetrical use of police force in cases involving black Americans.
The gesture was used by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) and Al Green (D-Tex.), members of the Congressional Black Caucus, to show solidarity with protesters in Ferguson, Mo., outraged by a St. Louis County grand jury decision to not indict police officer Darren Wilson, who on Aug. 9 shot and killed an unarmed Brown.
“‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ is a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence in … communities all across America,” said Jeffries.
“The killing of Michael Brown and attacks by the Ferguson Police Department on protesters demonstrate an assumption that young women and men who are African American are inherently suspicious—a false assumption with deadly consequences,” Clarke said when she took the floor.
“We cannot and will not accept the devaluation of African-American lives.”
Clarke continued: “We must not allow this false assumption to prevail in our nation, in our society. We cannot and will not accept the devaluation of African-American lives.”
Green applauded five St. Louis Rams players who displayed the gesture in silent protest during a 52-0 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. On Monday, the NFL said it had no intention of adhering to a request from the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association to discipline the players.
“I want to make sure that those who participated on the Rams team, that their names are chronicled in history,” Green said. “I want Kenny Britt to be recognized, Tavon Austin to be recognized, Stedman Bailey to be recognized, Jared Cook, Chris Givens, and Tre Mason.”
The representatives gesture of soldarity drew criticism from MSNBC Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough, who only a day before blasted people using “Michael Brown as the face of black oppression.” He called it a “grave disservice” to police officers.
“What is wrong with this country? What is wrong with these people,” Scarborough said on Morning Joe Tuesday morning. “What’s wrong with these elected officials, they know it’s a lie. They know the cops didn’t shoot him with his hands in the air. They know it’s a lie and they’re doing this on that Capitol floor?”
Obama’s plan, which would not curtail the transfer of surplus military gear to local police, would use around 29 percent of those funds to subsidize body cameras for police officers nationwide.
Watch Congressional Black Caucus on the Ferguson decision:
Screengrab via CSPAN