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#BLACKLIVESMATTER: Not Just a Hashtag!

Black, White, Asian or Indian, should the color of your skin be a crime? Should the color of our skin make us targets for police brutality, racism and violence? You’re right…The answer is No!

Since the tragic passing of George Floyd, it's been wondrous how people of different cultural and racial backgrounds have come out in large numbers, day and night in different cities of the world to march and protest the incessant brutality, racism and killing of black people by the police. Braving a deadly virus and possible brutal retaliation, they continue to pack the streets in uncountable numbers, demanding equality, and justice. Finally, prompting what feels like a change.

Black Lives Matter is not just a hashtag. It is a movement that has been building for years with the aim of highlighting the depth of brutality and injustice that American society, especially law enforcement, harbors towards people of color. The movement is all for calling out the unchecked power of the police and the capricious use of it on the people. It should not be until the next victim is you, your friend, neighbor or relative before we do something. Because the only stories we hear today are of people of color does not mean other races don’t go through it. The main idea of creating a change is to transform attitudes. Making police officers accountable does not necessarily mean it will eradicate the extreme measures that they take.

What happens if you’re the victim? Are you being falsely arrested? Are you being inappropriately handled?

My suggestions: Be as compliant as you can be. Resist the urge to run, argue or express anger. Police officers only have the right to arrest you if they have a warrant. They can also search you and your immediate surroundings, including your vehicle, if you have broken a law or they have seen the act or have reasonable suspicion. Remember your most important right. This is the right to remain silent. Speak only to answer identification questions. Do not be afraid to request to contact your lawyer.

If you think you have been injured or traumatized, do not hesitate to request immediate medical attention. Make mental notes of the situation. This is especially important if you feel it would be unsafe to voice your requests at the time of the interaction. Try to actively make mental notes of everything that is happening, focusing on the timeline of events, the people involved (police officers names, badge numbers and any potential witnesses). Begin writing down everything you remember as soon you get a chance. Save everything - your clothing, shoes, bag, everything! Do not wash anything that has blood, tears or stains. Put these articles in bags in a safe place. It could be very useful if you ever decide to seek justice in court.

Another big question is what do you do when you witness possible police violence or injustice?

I’m hesitant to say anybody should step in, because I don’t want people’s lives to be at risk, but I do think it is imperative as a human to do something as you may be saving a life.

Here are few suggestions:

Secure your safety first. Maintain a minimum of 6 feet distance from the situation so you can safely observe. Document the actions and/or record if you can. If you're not directly interfering with an officer's investigation, there are no laws barring you from filming an interaction with police. You have the right to record the police. Officers are also issued body cameras that record while they are interacting with citizens.

If you are recording, try to keep your phone close to your body, around chest level, instead of holding your phone out from your body. Without a warrant, police cannot confiscate your device, nor can they demand to see the videos or photos you’ve taken or delete them.

If you’re unable to or uncomfortable recording the incident, make a mental note or write the pertinent details on a piece of paper or in your phone and dial 911 to report what you have witnessed.

While this is not the best option, many human rights activists and authorities have come out to say that, if you can, try to intervene by speaking to other police officer(s) who may be at the scene. Try to get other officers to intervene in what's happening, try to get them to talk to the cop who's engaging in the use of force or the excessive use of force.

Just because you are not the victim, witnessing an incident like violence can be traumatic, and have an effect on your mental health. Remember it is okay to reach out for help. Talk to close friends, family members, others in your community or mental health professionals for support.

Remember your life matters, black lives matter and ALL LIVES MATTER! Let us stand for peace and justice.

-Adebimpe Ishmail

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