With Campaign Zero, Activists Put Teeth in Demand for End to Police Violence

They’ve marched in the streets and tweeted the names of black folks who have been killed. Now, a collective of young protesters hopes to put pressure on politicians and policy makers.

(Photo: Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

Aug 21, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Back in May, 26-year-old Johnetta Elzie, one of the young protesters who has been on the forefront of demanding an end to police violence, told The New York Times that she and her fellow activists have just one goal: “Our demand is simple,” Elzie said. “Stop killing us.” Despite that, she and her collective of like-minded peers—30-year-old DeRay McKesson, 25-year-old Samuel Sinyangwe, and 30-year-old Brittany Packnett—have sometimes been accused of being disorganized or of seeking personal fame and fortune.

Over the past year, the four have regularly shared hashtagged details with their thousands of Twitter followers about the latest black man, woman, or child—Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and on and on—to die after an interaction with police. Some of them were teargassed by law enforcement on the streets of St. Louis after the August 2014 officer-involved shooting death of 18-year-old Brown, and they organized rallies in Baltimore in April after 25-year-old Gray died in police custody.

But on Friday, the four activists put some concrete teeth in the broader movement to ensure black lives matter. They launched Campaign Zero, a collection of local, state, and federal policy demands focused on reforming the way law enforcement officials operate in the United States. “#CampaignZero is meant as a resource for activists & playbook for officials. No one needs to die by police violence,” tweeted Packnett.

The recommendations fall under 10 broad categories and were developed in consultation with community activists and academic experts and also integrate suggestions from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. “We can live in a world where the police don’t kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability,” reads the effort’s website.

To that end, the recommendations are primarily focused on changing the way officers are trained and do their jobs. Under the “end broken windows policing” category, for example, the campaign recommends that officers deprioritize arresting individuals who are loitering, trespassing, or drinking in public and suggests that cities “pass an ordinance or revise police department policies to ban racial profiling and establish enforceable protections against it.”

Under other categories, the campaign posits that recruiting and hiring people of color as officers should be prioritized, that body cameras should be mandatory for all officers, and that police should be trained to “use minimal force and de-escalation tactics, carry a non-lethal weapon, and intervene when another officer uses excessive force.”

RELATED: Watch What Happens When Body Cameras Are Used to Protect and Serve

Indeed, in what seems to be a direct nod to recent high-profile incidents of the deaths of black people after interaction with cops, the campaign also asks that officers be prohibited from “using force on a person for talking back or as a punishment for running away, from shooting at or moving in front of moving vehicles, and from engaging in high-speed pursuits of people who are not suspected of committing or being about to commit a violent felony.”

Campaign Zero has also created a “Candidate Tracking Document” that charts where the most popular presidential candidates from both the Republican and Democratic parties stand on reforming law enforcement. “The next President needs to tell the truth about police violence and urgently enact a comprehensive agenda to address it,” reads the campaign’s website. According to the chart, so far Sen. Bernie Sanders has thrown the most support behind changing police practices.

Campaign Zero

The organizers of Campaign Zero are asking people to pledge their support for the initiative in order to put pressure on elected officials to support the recommendations. “More tools will be released in the coming weeks to help people hold elected officials accountable to dismantling other harmful systems and building an America where all people can live, learn and reach their full potential,” promises the site.