July 21, 2020
The Honorable Steven Reed,
Mayor, City of Montgomery
103 North Perry Street,
Montgomery, Alabama 36104
Mr. Ernest Finley,
Chief, Montgomery Police Department
320 North Ripley Street
Montgomery, Alabama 36106
Dear Mayor Reed and Officer Finley:
We, the representatives of the Black Family Summit, the Alabama Save Our Selves Movement for Justice and Democracy, the Alabama Black Lives Matter Movement, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. SDPC, are writing to express our outrage over the violation of the First Amendment rights of American citizens who were arrested recently in the city of Montgomery, Alabama.
It is singularly outrageous that five people, including three who are in their seventies, and one person who has a pre-existing medical condition, were not only arrested, but they were jailed on misdemeanor charges.
It is our understanding that they were not arrested during a Black Lives Matter and Expand Medicaid rally public protest. Subsequently arrest warrants were issued even after they were informed that they would not be arrested and had returned to their homes. It is reported they turned themselves in, were subsequently strip searched, made to take cold showers, and held in jail for five hours – for misdemeanor charges. Surely, given the charges, in this environment of a national Covid-19 pandemic and heightened awareness of police violence, this was/is unwarranted.
They protested because protesting is a right in America. They were unarmed. They were nonviolent. But they represented the voices of the unheard – Black people whose lives do not and have not ever mattered to America. They also represented the masses of people who cannot get health care in this time of crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic because Alabama refuses to expand Medicaid.
They sprayed “Black Lives Matter” and “Expand Medicaid” on streets in Montgomery, and they knew they were pushing against the laws of the city. However, this is what protesters do. This is how our nation was founded – by people pushing, protesting, and revolting against unjust
laws. Protesting is an American tradition.
Protesters know that the possibility of arrest is always a part of the journey. But, to be arrested, strip searched, made to take cold showers, and be held in jail for five hours
for misdemeanor charges is unconscionable. At a time when some people are protesting because they resent being told to wear masks to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, it is telling that none of them have been arrested. But, these people were arrested and treated as though they had committed violent crimes.
Where is the conscience, the sense of dignity and honor, and respect for the right of Americans to assemble as is their and our right according to the United States Constitution? Where is the concern over the lives of people that will be lost because they cannot afford health care? And where is the respect due to elders who are fighting – still – for justice for all?
What you must not realize is that until all of us are free, none of us are free. If the very poor cannot get health care, they will get sick and the illness will eventually reach the rich and the very rich. If attention is not paid to the way Black people in this country are treated, the repercussions will spill over into white life in ways that will forever weaken our country as a whole.
We demand answers. Why did you find it necessary to strip search these people? What was the purpose of the cold showers? We stand in support of their courageous fight for justice, and we intend to spread the story of how the “justice system” of Alabama is as rotten now as it was in the 60s, when law enforcement officers sprayed women and children with fire hoses and set vicious dogs loose on them. Unfortunately, these horrific actions occurred under your direction and jurisdiction, you who are also African American.
We intend to spread the news across the country and throughout the world that America’s racism is as putrid today as it has ever been. Its racism is causing scores of black, brown, and poor people to die from a virus that other countries have managed to get under control – as well as from state-sanctioned violence meted out by police. We will not be silent nor will we stop fighting for the preservation of our First Amendment rights. If people can stand on and in capitol buildings with loaded guns because they resent being told to wear masks and because they feel it is a violation of their First Amendment rights, people who are fighting for their lives ought to be left alone as they raise the cry for justice for marginalized people which has been denied for too long. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “justice delayed is justice denied.” Justice has in fact been
too long denied to Black people, and we support all who are working to stop this spiritual and moral depravity, which is an extension of America’s racist foundation.
We pray that you hear us. We pray that you provide us with the answers we are demanding. We pray that you stop accosting, threatening, and harassing people who are exercising their rights as American citizens. We stand in solidarity with those who were arrested and demand that they be treated like the elders and human beings that they are, and not objects unworthy of basic human respect.
Leonard G. Dunston, MSW, Convener, IBW/Black Family Summit
3 Bluebell Court
Durham, NC 27713
Supported by Black Family Summit (BFS) National Organizations: National Black United Front
- Community Healing Network National Conference of Black Lawyers Transformative Justice Coalition
- Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference
- Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association National Black Nurses Association
- National Black Leadership Commission on Health National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice Association of Black Psychologists
- National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls National Voting Rights Museum
- A Black Education Network
- Blacks in Law Enforcement of America
- National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America National Black Veterans Association
- National Association of Black Social Workers Black Administrators in Child Welfare National Medical Association
- Black Psychiatrists of America
- Nigerian Association of Social Workers in America All Healers Mental Health Alliance
- National Alliance of Faith and Justice National Bar Association
- International Black Women’s Congress Mothers in Charge
- International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters Racial Justice Working Group of the Justice Roundtable National Dental Association