Gerald Hankerson is tired.
He’s tired of looking into the eyes of mothers whose sons were killed by police officers.
He’s tired of hearing about young people who don’t want to go outside because they fear racism and police brutality.
He’s tired of having to debate whether those issues exist, the NAACP Seattle King County president said Thursday.
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“It may not happen in your neighborhood, but it happens in my neighborhood,” Hankerson said. “I’m tired of even talking about this.”
Hankerson spoke Thursday at the NAACP Seattle King County’s gathering in solidarity with Ferguson, Mo., where the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer two weeks ago has ignited nightly protests. Scores of people attended the gathering at Pratt Park in Seattle’s Central District.
Speakers at the gathering called for changes in policing and emphasized the need for community members to take action to fight institutionalized racism. They spoke about messages of solidarity they wanted to send to Ferguson.
“The one thing that Ferguson did, it exposed that our police are more like a military,” Hankerson said. “I can’t even tell the difference anymore.”
Between speeches, someone at the gathering would prompt attendees to raise their hands into the air and yell: “Hands up, don’t shoot,” which has become a common chant at protests nationwide after the shooting of Brown.
“Mike Brown wasn’t a threat, yet he was still shot more times than you can count on one hand,” speaker Rashuad Johnson, 24, said. “There will be more if we don’t do anything about it. It could be any one of us.”
William Wingate, 69, spoke about his arrest in July by a police officer he said accused him of swinging at her with a golf club he was using during his morning walk.
“I had never seen her before in my life,” Wingate said.
After Wingate spoke, Pastor Lawrence Willis, president of the United Black Clergy, noted that not every police officer is guilty of wrongdoing, but that community members need to take action against those who are.
“We live in a society where we have young people that are afraid,” Willis said. “We live in a society that’s been desensitized to violence. We have to police the police.”
Willis said the United Black Clergy, a group of Washington religious leaders, would be sending a letter to Brown’s family saying that Washington residents were standing by them.
“I can hear Brother Brown’s blood crying out, ‘don’t shoot me,’ ” Willis said. “The truth will set you free. And the truth is, they’re killing our young men.”
At the end of the gathering, former NAACP Seattle King County president and current economic-development chair Sheley Secrest prompted attendees to put up their hands and yell: “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
“This is not over,” she said.
Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or firstname.lastname@example.org