ACET Statement on National Protests

posted Jan 14, 2015, 12:45 PM by John Norwood
National attention has been focused on the many protests over several recent deaths of unarmed African-American males, both adult men and boys, at the hands of police. There is also tension among the protestors over the issue that the judicial system failed to take the actions that met their expectations. This has polarized our nation with numerous rallies and marches expressing the level of frustration of many citizens of all races over perceived police abuse and judicial manipulation protecting the abusers. The polarization is also expressed in the respon
Protest Picture
se of many police officers and police supporters who view any critique of police behavior as an assault on law and order by those who have anarchist leanings. Sadly, in the midst of such heightened emotions, extremist views on both sides too often fail to see the unacknowledged reasonable middle ground and also merely paint the issue in racial categories of “black and white.”

People of color are often uneasy around police because of the history of profiling based on stereotypes that can classify even the most law-abiding and upstanding citizens as nothing more than “potential criminals” in the eyes of police. While needing to rely on local law enforcement to “protect and serve,” brown and black males are also often taught to be extremely cautious in the presence of police officers who may see any movement, behavior, tone, or even dress in a different light with them than they would under similar circumstances with any of their white counterparts. This is a reflection of the underlying racism in American society and not merely a perception of law enforcement officers. There is a predisposition that places brown and black males at a greater risk of harm at the hands of police than if they were white. The need for the services of law enforcement, while also being fearful of the presence and potential responses of police officers, leaves some American minority communities in a very tense relationship with the law enforcement officers patrolling their communities. The historical shortcomings of the justice system, which often leaves America’s brown and black citizens seeking justice but very often not receiving it, adds to an atmosphere of distrust which can fuel a underlying mood of hostility even among the law abiding.

The refrain lifted by many protesters has been “Black life matters.” This is certainly a true statement, but it is woefully misleading in its scope as it suggests that African Americans are the minority group solely at risk, or most at risk, when engaged by police. As an intertribal organization of 11 member nations, the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes (ACET) is keenly aware of how American Indians are historically disregarded and our issues, and even our very presence, commonly overlooked by the larger population. A little-known fact is that, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention - National Center for Health Statistics 2011 report, the group most likely to be killed by law enforcement are American Indian males between the ages of 25 and 40.

Acknowledging these facts does not necessarily equate to attacking or undermining law enforcement or the legal system. There are many upstanding and ethical law enforcement officers who carry out their duties with compassion and professionalism. They should not be negatively stereotyped any more than any other demographic should be. The recent attacks on police officers and the much-publicized calls for “dead cops” by some protesters are unconscionable. By all accounts, the police officers who recently lost their lives at the hands of deranged and vengeful citizens were those who were willing to put their lives at risk in order to defend the innocent. Their deaths are a great loss to all law-abiding Americans.

The Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes (ACET) grieves the loss of each and every life, as all life is a precious gift from the Creator. We also call on people of good conscience, both civilians and those in law enforcement, to deal with reason and compassion with one another, acknowledging the pains, fears, and biases that come into play on both sides of the argument in an effort to move toward mutual respect, respectfulness, sensitivity, and reconciliation. We call on the police to acknowledge that peaceful protestors and demonstrators are citizens, worthy of their respect and protection, and to whom law enforcement is accountable. We call on protestors and demonstrators to remain peaceful in their exercise of their right to free speech and assembly, refraining from viewing or describing all police officers as “the enemy.” We also call on the Congress of the United States to establish federal policy requiring that the deaths of persons caused by police under questionable circumstances be investigated and prosecuted by those who are unaffiliated with the local jurisdiction and local police department in order to ensure fair, transparent, and ethical processes as a matter of justice.
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