In response to Mike Brown’s murder and continued police brutality in Ferguson, the latest example of national state violence, organizers across the country will be coming together today at 7 PM EST / 4 PM PST for a silent vigil. The National Moment of Silence 2014 (or as you’ll see on Twitter, #NMOS14) will honor the innocent lives lost and pay respect to those whose lives have been affected by police brutality.
Spearheaded by activist and writer @FeministaJones, folks have stepped up in their local communities have organized the National Moment of Silence 2014 in just under three days. Demonstrating once again how digital organizing can create amazing results on the ground, #NMOS14 will bring folks together to reflect, empower, and create connections that will spark further activism and action. You can find information about events will be happening in your community here.
We spoke today with Feminista Jones to learn more about #NMOS14, how the police state harms communities across the country, and how folks can get involved.
Suzanna Bobadilla: Thank you so much for speaking with us and for your activism in bringing people together at this time. Could you share with us how #NMOS14 came to be?
Feminista Jones: There’s been a lot of tension, a lot of issues about police brutality, particularly with people being shot and attacked. There’s Mike Brown, but you’ve also had [the murder of] Eric Gardner, Marlene Pinnock beaten on the road, Denise Stewart being dragged out naked. You also think back to Aiyana Jones who was shot in her own home. A number of innocent people have lost their lives because of excessive force and police brutality and as such, people are really on edge. They are upset and they are angry as they are watching Ferguson, an entire town occupied by this extreme military force because an 18-year-old was shot and killed, his body was left outside for hours, and the people were demanding answers and wanting justice.
The way that Ferguson has been treating this is so antagonistic towards people who were trying to assemble peacefully and protest and they are being treated like animals. I realize that this is sparking a lot of tension from the world, particularly in the country, and I felt that we needed a moment where we all come together. In that solidarity, we will let our voices be heard that we are tired of this, that this is a national emergency, that the police state of this country is problematic. We need to honor and pay respect to the people who have lost their lives. We also cannot lose sight of those people who have survived horrific abuse, people who have that trauma with them. We should show solidarity with them and the families of the lost ones. They need to know that American people care. Usually these stories get swept under the rug, but they need to know that we are aware, we care and we’re trying to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else’s families.
My hope is that tonight at these vigils — which we have over a hundred right now from Maine to Hawaii — that everyone can come together at the same exact time and have the same exact moment of silence where we all collectively put our energy toward remembering those who have died. People can exchange information, they can build, and they can establish little communities, local organizations, and take it to the next step. We can’t let it die here with the vigil, we have to see what’s going on in local level, we have to challenge laws like the same way people challenged Stop and Frisk in New York. We have to work together to make sure that the police have a positive respectful relationship with the community that they say they do. Respect, protection — we need to see that it’s happening for everyone.
SB: Could you share some background on how you were able to mobilize and organize so quickly and across thousands of miles?
Feminista Jones: It started this past Sunday afternoon. I just tweeted my thoughts out loud about how we should have a national moment of silence and how we should come together as a nation. I said, “Now who among you are willing to step up in your cities and make this happen?” Immediately, I had people from Detroit, from Chicago, Philadelphia, DC, come up and say, “I’ll do it, I’ll do it. I’m willing to organize.” As more and more people joined, I gave people some guidelines. I put out an request for someone to design a logo and a young woman stepped up and did it. I asked people to create a Facebook event page, identify the location where you’ll be, and to make a vigil — not a rally or a protest because you have to permits to do those. Some areas actually did get permits because they are doing actions near their State building. Most vigils are happening in open parks where you can assemble, so we wanted people to be consistent with that message. So that there would be uniformity. So we have been compiling all of this information.
And when I say “we,” I mean the people. I reached out to a number of organizations initially to see if they would be interested in joining. I got a response from none of them. I guess if they aren’t taking the lead, as their name, they don’t want to get involved. But the Dream Defenders — I reached out to them and they connected me with a two community organizers, Larry Stadford and Scott Roberts from an organization called Freedom Side. They have provided technical assistance and a tool kit on how to host a vigil, how to interact with the media. Last night we had a conference call for all of the organizers, 75 people on the call, and we gave them the information that they needed on hosting a vigil. We answered questions and afterwards, we emailed everyone a tool kit with sign up sheets.
SB: Can you share some words about how fighting police brutality is a feminist issue?
Feminista Jones: This is a feminist issue because the safety of our community affects all women. One of the things that we keep pointing out is that people keep focusing on how police brutality affects black men, but in the last five years, there have been eight major instances of police killing unarmed black women and girls. If you look at our logo, we have their names on there too because we have to change the narrative. But even if there weren’t these instances, police brutality would still be a feminist issue because the police are using unjust force on the people that we care about. It makes the community tough to live in and it creates trauma when as a mother, your child is out and you are praying every night that they come home safely. Not because of the other people in the neighborhood, but because you know they could be a targeted victim of police brutality.
Community health is a feminist issue and we should all be taking steps in making sure that our communities are safe and healthy ones. Police will brutalize women — all you have to do is Google “police brutality women.” How many times has a woman called for help and the police have assaulted her? This is a feminist issue for sure.
Suzanna Bobadilla turns to Sweet Honey in the Rock’s “Ella’s Song” on days like this.