Civil rights leader explains purpose of protest

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – Dozens of people spent Sunday night walking, chanting and standing in solidarity.

The group, part of the Black Lives Matter movement, were protesting the recent shootings of black men by police officers.

Photos: Unity protests around Hampton Roads

“I think last night was a display of citizens who are tired of being sick and tired,” Portsmouth NAACP President James Boyd said.

According to Boyd, in addition to protesting killings across the nation, the rally was meant to also address some other specific issues closer to home.

“Obviously the nation, the world has seen not only what happened in Baton Rouge, and in Minneapolis, but we’ve seen what happened right here in Portsmouth,” he said.

Boyd told 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings there needs to be equal treatment under the law for all people and more police accountability.

“We want to make sure that we turn it into specific advocacy items that we’ve targeted to make sure that we better the relationship between law enforcement and the community, but also that we have a level of accountability in our law enforcement,” Boyd said.

To achieve that, he listed six things he believes should happen in Portsmouth now:

1. We want a police accountability commission with subpoena authority. This is the only way for true citizen accountability.

2. We want the cases of Marshall Franklin and David Warren settled out of court. These families have done enough and don’t deserve to go through the arduous process of the legal system for the unjustified use of force that killed their loved ones.

3. We want a full review of the Regional Jail completed by DOJ and FBI in the tragic death of Jamycheal Mitchell. Additionally, we want the leadership of the jail removed and all those involved with Jamycheal in the jail removed. The Portsmouth PD that arrested him, we want investigated for policy violation.

4. We want the body cam policy revoked and a new policy constructed that has input from all citizens.

5.We want a review of all conduct records of officers who have been involved with shooting unarmed black citizens since 2008. All officers who sit on administrative leave for more than six months should be relieved of duty.

6. We want to know if there was an internal investigation for the use of force in the Walter Brown III shooting and the William Chapman shooting. If so, we want to review the findings for policy violations for officers involved.

Of the police accountability commission, Boyd told Cummings, “Right now we have a police department that investigates themselves. We think that paradigm and that standard is not good enough.

“Having the subpoena power will give us the material needed to have the level of accountability that we think is right for all lives, specifically black lives, but all lives throughout of community,” Boyd said. “Without that level of accountability, we do not have a true look, independent look into how police officers are investigating these cases that continue to happen throughout our country.”

Marshall Franklin and David Warren both had mental health issues and were killed by Portsmouth police several years ago. Boyd said, “The challenge with both of those cases is there’s been no transparent investigative report that has been released in terms of what happened that day.

“We believe that we should have a process in this city where officers — when they do use that level of force — not only do we want documented evidence, but we believe that those things should be settled out of court so those families don’t have to go through arduous processes of the legal system,” Boyd said.

Since the death of Jamycheal Mitchell while in jail, Boyd wants more done in that case.

“What we want is an independent review of what happened in that jail. Who was involved? Who was involved in his treatment? Why was the decision not made to have him transferred to the mental health facility? We believe that all those questions cannot be answered here. Again, people investigating themselves.”

One year ago, the City of Portsmouth ordered body cameras for officers. Boyd would like to see the policy recreated with citizen input.

“We want all citizens in our city from diverse backgrounds, some different experiences with police to have input into that body cam policy,” he said. “Because it’s important that we not only have a body cam policy, but documentation governing the videos and the release of the videos taken with those body cameras is very important.”

Boyd wants the public to see the conduct report on all officers who have been involved with shooting black citizens since 2008.

“Not only are we losing our lives, but there’s nobody being held accountable for the continual loss of black life in this country,” he said.

Boyd told Cummings, “I don’t think that is a unreasonable request. We’ve got documentation that says officers have continuously been involved in these type of cases and then have been promoted.”

Boyd continued, “We want to make sure that we have honest and decent police officers on our force (which are there now) but we’ve got to make sure that those that do not have that same level of openness with the community and equal treatment under the law, we want to make sure they’re not involved in our police force.”

Finally, Boyd wants to review the findings of any internal investigations related to the use of force in the killings of Walter Brown and William Chapman.

“If we had to wrap it up, it would be equality and it would be accountability,” Boyd said.

Boyd told Cummings, “I think throughout every movement throughout this country Brandi, there has been singular events that have started ripples that form currents for change. I think last night was a ripple and we’re hoping that that ripple is going to start a current that says every life in this community matters,” he said. “Every life has the right to have fair and equal treatment under the law. I think last night was a step forward in that direction.”

“This is just the beginning,” Boyd said.

As for what will happen next, Boyd told Cummings there are no specific plans for another rally involving the Black Lives Matter 757 group or the NAACP.

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