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Undaunted, we march forward to demand police reforms

Members of the NAACP and their supporters start

Members of the NAACP and their supporters start out for the first day of Journey for Justice, seven-day 134-mile march from the Canfield Green apartments where Michael Brown was killed to the Governor's mansion in Jefferson City, Missouri on Nov. 29, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Scott Olson

Profound sadness can only begin to summarize the indescribable heartache rippling across the country in the wake of two grand juries deciding not to indict the two police officers in the killings of unarmed African-American men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But undaunted typifies the resolve of the NAACP and millions across the world who will not allow these tragic events to dissuade us from pursuing justice.

I learned that a grand jury declined to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the Garner case while on our 134-mile "Journey for Justice" from Ferguson to Jefferson City, Missouri. At that point, our marchers were trudging up icy hills with boots often filled with bloody and blistered feet.

For seven days, from sunup to sundown, protesters joined us as we marched through harsh weather for the cause of justice. We called for reforms of police practice and culture across the country.

Racial epithets were thrown our way from passersby, but we marched. A mob shattered the window of our support bus after some threatened to shoot us, yet we continued. And after marching 134 miles, we were in no way tired.

In no way was our trek from Ferguson to Jefferson City designed to be a solution. It was a continuation of the many demonstrations designed to make clear to the country and the world that the NAACP and our allies will not stand down until we see systemic change, accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct.

That march is completed, but we as a nation must continue to march forward. We march to arrive at a day when my two teenage sons and black men and women across this nation will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. We march forward to establish a national ban on racial profiling and an end to the overaggressive "broken windows"-style of policing that has become common in communities of color. We press on to achieve a criminal justice system that holds officers accountable for their misconduct and strengthens police departments to work with residents to keep all communities safe.

Today young black men are 21 times as likely as their white peers to be killed by police, according to the news organization ProPublica, and about 1 in 4 young black men said he had been treated unfairly in dealings with the police, according to a Gallup poll.

The NAACP, throughout its 105-year history, has stood at the forefront of combating policies and practices that undermine the civil and human rights of law-abiding people. In fact, it was founded to combat lynching, which was often done by law enforcement officials aided by mobs.

Having nearly ended lynching in the last century, we can and must end profiling in this century. Since our inception, black lives have mattered. Indeed all lives matter. As the NAACP "Born Suspect" report on stop-and-frisk abuses shows, profiling is based not only on race, but also religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity -- making it all the more morally and legally unacceptable.

As we approach a new year, we have a resolve to move forward and we need your help. Join us in calling on our local, state and federal elected leaders to advance systemic reform and fundamental change in how policing is conducted throughout our communities, which includes requiring police to use body cameras, revising the equipping of police with military hardware, promoting diversity on the force and ending the use of major force in cases involving minor offenses.

While we are frustrated and deeply disappointed, we know that these grand jury decisions do not mean crimes were not committed in Staten Island or in Ferguson, and it does not mean we are done fighting.

Cornell William Brooks is president and chief executive of the NAACP.


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