News release from Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators
NASHVILLE—At a press conference today The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators called for a state and federal investigation into the handcuffing and arrest of several African-American children, aged 5-to-11, for watching a fight and not breaking it up. Lawmakers are also calling the complete expungement of the children’s arrest records.
Standing side by side with a group of clergy from Murfreesboro, as well as other concerned lawmakers, Caucus Chair Rep. Brenda Gilmore (D-Nashville) said the Black Caucus has been conducting a year-long examination of the justice system in Tennessee and said this is another example of the unfairness that poor people and people of color face.
Rep. Gilmore said, ““The action by the police is an example of the over disciplining of children of color. The criminalization of these children’s behavior begs to ask the question: Would police have gone into an affluent neighborhood and went into the school and arrested children for failing to stop a fight? And, we know these rich children certainly would not have been handcuffed and taken to juvenile jail.”
Rep. Gilmore added, “As parents, we teach our children not to get involved in fights or violence. Then, they get arrested for just that.”
The Caucus is asking for four items in a plan of action:
1. A federal investigation by the Department of Justice into the incident.
2. The Tennessee TBI to assist in ensuring that any appropriate state agencies look into the incident.
3. Murfreesboro Police Chief Karl Durr and the City Manager, Rob Lyons, develop a sensitivity plan where they learn how to work and deal with people of color so that this type of policing is “stopped” and never happen again.
4. Lastly, that the judicial community works with the parents to insure that each child’s records is completely expunged and wiped clean.
Rep. G. A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) added, “It’s nothing that is excusable about what happened with those little children. They will carry those scars forever. That kind of trauma will last forever and we’ll be trying to fix it on the back end. We’ll be talking about mental health for little children scarred for life. They will never trust the police and those who are supposed to be their friends and protectors. It won’t happen. And then we’ll be trying to have community meetings with adults who have deep rooted fears and distrust of the police from early on in their development years and wondering why we can’t make progress.”