Ben Crump lit a fire under the crowd that packed into a large conference room for the kick off of the National Action Network’s convention in New York City on Wednesday.
“Why is it that a young Black man doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt?” Crump asked the audience, pointing to the growing number of unarmed Black males killed by the police.
The civil rights lawyer has represented the families of shooting victims in several high-profile cases, including the parents of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. He was the featured panelists, along with three other lawyers, who discussed a topic titled, “The State of American Justice in the Age of Trump.”
Before sharing his perspective, Crump introduced Stephon Clark’s mother, Sequette Clark, and Sequita Thompson, his grandmother, to a standing ovation. They were informally inducted into the Mothers of the Movement, the group of women whose unarmed children were killed by the police. The two women were joined on stage by Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden and Eric Garner‘s mother, Gwen Carr.
Two Sacramento police officers gunned down Clark on March 18 in a hail of 20 bullets in his grandmother’s backyard. The cops said they believed he had a gun, but it turned out to be a cell phone.
“Stephon had no weapon and no warning, executed in his grandmother’s backyard,” Crump said. “As he lay dying, the officers offered no assistance and no humanity.”
Indeed, videos and one audio file of the shooting released on Monday revealed that the officers waited nearly six minutes before administering CPR to the 22-year-old father of two sons. The officers didn’t approach Clark’s body for about five minutes—but then only to handcuff him. And they searched him for nearly a minute before beginning rescue assistance. An independent autopsy revealed in March that at least six of the eight bullets police shot into Clark’s body hit him in the back.
Crump noted that police officers gave the benefit of the doubt to Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people February in a school massacre, when they arrested and brought him in alive. But for Black men it’s typically shoot first and ask questions later, he added.
“They’re also killing us in courtrooms,” the attorney said. Black folks are getting “Trumped-up” felony convictions, Crump continued, making a reference to President Donald Trump’s pledge to be the law-and-order president.
White kids get a slap on the wrist from judges for the same offenses that land Black kids in jail. Once getting a felony on their record, they must live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.
“If we don’t fight for our children, no one else will,” Crump said to thunderous applause.