For the last year, Black Lives Matter Nashville (BLMN), as an organizational member of the Community Oversight Now Coalition, has been working diligently to win community oversight in Nashville. Jocques Clemmons’ death in February 2017 has reignited a fire among Nashvillians who want to see their local government be more transparent and accountable.
Why Community Oversight Now?
Between 2005 and 2015 nearly 700 citizen complaints were filed per year against the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD). Of those complaints, 98% were completely dismissed by the MNPD’s internal investigation department. This staggering number alone does enough to demonstrate just how inept the Metro Police Department is at regulating itself, as overwhelming evidence from external organizations, research analysts, and everyday people tells another story. In 2017, Gideon Army released its Driving While Black report assessing 2 million MNPD stops between 2011 and 2015 that found strong evidence of racial bias regarding police stops and roadside searches. While heaps of evidence has been provided to support a Community Oversight board in Nashville, our city government and MNPD continue to believe that Nashville has no real problem. When questionable things happen, such as racial profiling and the shooting of Jocques Clemmons, responsibility lies within the department where the incidents happen. In a glaringly evident contradiction of interests, victims of police misconduct in Nashville are forced to rely on the police to police themselves. But doctors don’t regulate themselves. Restaurants don’t regulate themselves. Yet, MNPD officers regulate themselves without any accountability. Hence, the proposed oversight board shall have primary jurisdiction in the investigation of alleged misconduct committed by MNPD employees against civilian members of the public, in addition to having the authority to study and make advisory recommendations regarding the function of Nashville’s criminal justice system.
On April 11, the Community Oversight Now Coalition launched a campaign to formally place the issue of community oversight on the ballot. In the coming weeks, Community Oversight Now Coalition will be collecting signatures from Nashville citizens to petition in favor of the new ballot measure. In order for Black and Brown voices to be heard, we need your support. Because the opposition is powerful, it will take money, resources, and countless hours of dedicated organizing to carry out our mission of holding police truly accountable and creating safer communities for those most vulnerable to both the whims of individual police officers and the systematic violence of the police state at-large. As a resilient people, we have always had to have our own. In order to win, we must be the ones to fund our movements. We invite you to join us in this critical work by supporting with a sustaining or one-time donation.
Join the Squad.
Interested in learning more about how to be involved with the Nashville chapter of Black Lives Matter, part of the Black Lives Matter Network? Register for our 1 day training at http://bit.ly/resit615 by Monday, March 19th at 11:59 a.m. If you have any membership training questions, email email@example.com with the subject “Membership Training Question.”
**Membership is currently open to Black and Non-Black People of Color**
Cuts to Metro General Hospital? Gentrification of our communities? Lack of Police accountability and a community overusing board? 5.4 Billion tax for light rail?…we need to turn the spotlight back on our communities.
Join Pathe Nashville and the Community Oversight Now Coalition this Sunday to learn how all these issues are connected and how we can work together to win control over our communities.
Statement on White Supremacist Rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro
This weekend, white supremacist groups will host rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. While Black Lives Matter Nashville (BLMN) understands why it is important to counter-protest these types of gatherings, BLMN will not participate in any counter-protest. We believe that gatherings of neo-nazis and klansmen like these distract us from the destructive ways systemic white supremacy rallies against the lives of Black and Brown folks in Middle Tennessee and this country everyday.
The white supremacists that will gather this weekend are at work in these systems year round. Our hope is that any counter-protest will extend its message to discussing the myriad ways Black people are disproportionately and negatively impacted by the systemic policies that undergird this country. With their proud displays of Confederate iconography, Shelbyville and Murfreesboro are attractive locations for groups like the League of the South. We know that they are here because they want to incite fear in our Black and Brown immigrant communities. We know that they are here because our resistance against the devaluation of our lives is growing and they feel their power to divide us being threatened. We know they are here because we live in a country that continues to scapegoat and type rural communities as centers for hate, racism, islamophobia, and fascism, but refuses to acknowledge the classist ways white supremacy is employed.
We recognize that white supremacy is not relegated to our country’s rural outskirts. Just this year Nashville openly welcomed the National convening of the Fraternal Order of Police, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and will be hosting the American Legislative Exchange Council in December (ALEC). These organizations are driven by the people who maintain the system of white supremacy by protecting murderous police, lobbying against community accountability measures like community oversight boards, rolling back regulations on equipping police departments with military grade weaponry, and legislating to increase corporate profit through the prison industrial complex. All these policies and more work together to undermine Black life.
Finally, we believe that these rallies are times for white people to step up. Although it is scary, cowering in fear, hiding behind closed businesses or relying on protection from law enforcement will not effectively combat white supremacy. For many people of color, the daily experiences of living in America offer no safe places to hide or people to call for protection. Taking the time to question your fears, unpack the ways you uphold the pillars of white supremacy and continue the difficult task of dismantling the many institutions in place that reinforce white supremacy- long after the rallies are gone- is the type of solidarity needed in these times.
Gatherings like what will occur in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro are used as scapegoats for institutions and white America at large; it becomes a chance to point fingers at the obvious racists. In reality, it is both the practice of overt and covert racism that makes these violent and hateful rallies of klansmen and neo-nazis possible. It is white America who invited them in and it is white America who has the responsibility to see them out.
On May 11, 2017, the District Attorney’s Office announced that they would not be filing charges against Officer Joshua Lippert for the death of Jocques Clemmons. This decision comes nearly one month after the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation completed its investigation of the shooting of Jocques Clemmons by Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) Officer Joshua Lippert.
While this announcement is disheartening, we know fully the long history of charges being dropped, cases dismissed, or officers not being indicted when it comes to Black people being murdered by the police. For this reason, many in the city are not shocked, but instead angry. Angry that despite someone being shot in the back and killed by an officer who has a record of excessive force- the officer walks free. Angry that a police officer can murder a human being and be comforted by the fact that they will be investigated by their fellow officers in blue. Angry that in the days leading up to the no surprise announcement, MNPD and Megan Barry have beefed up police forces all around the city to quell any form of outrage. Angry that Chief Anderson himself stated “Nashville is not Ferguson” and yet here we are. Jocques’ murder is a function of the continued occupation and over-policing of communities of color in Nashville. To pretend otherwise would be “morally disingenuous.”
Today Nashville, the liberal stronghold of Tennessee, joins the other numerous localities that fail to find fault or even recognize criminality in police officers when their violence and brutality takes the lives of Black people. It is troubling to imagine that an incomplete stop, for Black people, may culminate in death at the hands of MNPD. Community members have been warning city officials for years about the unique risks, vulnerabilities, and dangers that Black people experience at the hands of MNPD as detailed in the Driving While Black report on racial profiling in Metro Nashville. The same police department also sought to dehumanize Jocques Clemmons following the killing by calling him a “gunman,” releasing mugshots, and obtaining a warrant to search Mr. Clemmons’ social media accounts after his death in an effort to slander his character. Age old tactics used by police to villainize Black people.
Worse yet, Officer Lippert is STILL employed by MNPD and free to continue his well documented pattern of excessive use of force on other members of this community. Many of us are not safe while he is still employed, hiding behind a shield and carrying a gun Unfortunately, the death of Jocques Clemmons is only one instance of excessive force, in a city where according to data produced by Metro Legal in response to a civil rights lawsuit, roughly 700 complaints are filed per year against MNPD. The majority of these complaints go without discipline. It is past time for the COMMUNITY to have oversight and for the city to do something about MNPD other than offer the department more money, continue to host townhalls, visit Black barbershops to talk, and deliver lip service. If the city of Nashville, its council members, and police department are serious about making our city safer for ALL citizens they will strongly and visibly support the following demands created by community members who organized to form the Justice For Jocques Coalition together with Clemmons’ family members:
- Release of the police incident report documenting police action in the immediate aftermath of the murder
- Immediate termination of Officer Joshua Lippert
- Make public police policies regarding how/why officers are terminated
- Institute a people-organized Community Oversight Board with independent investigatory power
- Terminate the security contract between MNPD and MDHA
These demands are only what an initial step towards justice for Jocques Clemmons looks like. We recognize that even if all of the demands are met, it is still no victory for communities of color. For communities of color, there is no victory in police violence- there is only justice through accountability and shifting our ideologies and practices on policing to ensure that these killings never happen again. We fully acknowledge that these demands will never bring Jocques Clemmons back home. A mother is left without her child, sisters without a brother, and children without their father. A family left trying to cope, knowing that they are up against a system that historically does not lose. These are the devastating realities that create trauma and distrust in Black communities.
In these times, and considering the history of violence in this country- a history that some of us are reminded of daily- hope seems hard to find. Justice seems unreachable. But we push back and we fight for justice, we fight to keep hope, realizing that these things, that justice and hope are intimately tied to our humanity. The moment that we stop fighting for justice, we lose our humanity. Jocques Clemmons should be alive today. And through the trauma and anger, we will continue to fight for justice.
Rest in Power, Jocques.
Tonight we lift up the name JOCQUES SCOTT CLEMMONS of Nashville who was shot and killed by police today in Cayce Homes. All too often, traffic stops end up deadly for black people #DrivingWhileBlack. A passed stop sign yields flashing blue lights and our hearts race as our palms begin to sweat and fear kicks in, not knowing if today, if this time will be the day. We center and uplift the grieving family of JOCQUES and the community of Cayce Homes that witnessed his murder. We will not stop saying his name- reaffirming his humanity each time. We are often stripped of our humanity when killed by the police and portrayed to be criminals, defiant of “authority”, violent- none of which are a death sentence. JOCQUES was a human being, born flesh and blood who was loved by his family, not unlike many of us. This could have been any of us tonight. Many of us are grieving, many of us are angry. We have every right to be. You are affirmed in being angry and in being heartbroken.
We reject any narrative that will be spun by local news sources that paint JOCQUES as anything other than a human being. A human being who lived, and breathed, and smiled and whose life was stolen today. Stolen by a system that often goes unchecked, with no impunity. “When crime is organized enough, it isn’t even illegal”. It becomes systemic and is ingrained in the very fabric of our society in the form of laws and policies and the enforcement of these laws and policies. News reports will soon follow. Push back. Push back. Push back. Push back for JOCQUES’ humanity. Push back for JOCQUES’ family. Push back for our folks. We must love and protect one another.
This month, Black Lives Matter Nashville started our first large scale fundraiser. We’re so grateful to those who have already donated and are happy to say that we’ve already raised over $6,000. However, we still have a long way to reach our $100,000 goal.
That figure may seem daunting right now, but we’re certain that our community has the potential to take us there. You may rightfully ask yourself why we are asking for so much, and we respect that curiosity. After hours of deliberation, the leadership core decided that $100,000 will adequately fund full-time organizers, space, and operations for one year.
While activism is something that everyone should feel able to participate in, real organizing is demanding work. You may only see us when we’re marching in the streets, but there’s a lot of work that happens behind the scenes, including: emails, phone calls, letter writing, interviews, etc. The leadership core has been dedicated to building leadership and organizing for the past two years while maintaining jobs and/or school work. As we progress, it’s important for us to have dedicated staff members to do the day to day work of BLM. While we could hire an “intern” or someone part-time, we believe that this work is critical to transforming our city and feel that people should be compensated fairly for their work and provided benefits, thus we are looking for $80,000 to pay two full-time organizers.
Currently BLM holds meetings and events in a variety of spaces: churches, schools, or sometimes our own homes. While we are eternally grateful for the kindness we’ve been shown by community members who open their doors for us, we know that it’s about time for us to have a (semi-permanent) physical space of our own. We’ve crunched some numbers and looked at a few rental properties in North Nashville. That’s how we came up with the number $9600 including rent and utilities for one year. In addition to being functional for meetings and organizing, our own physical space would be a symbol to the black community of Nashville that BLM stands with you, for you, and next to you.
In addition to finding time and space to run BLM Nashville, the leadership core also uses their own money to fund its operations. The food for meetings, the art supplies for direct actions, software, security, travel and accommodations are usually paid for by the personal funds of the leadership core. We expect to use about $10,000 in operating expenses in 2017, and would love for the collective wealth of our community to participate in funding these expenses. We want this movement to be led and supported by the community of Nashville.
On Saturday, January 28th BLM Nashville and Protect the Culture hosted a Books & Breakfast on Black Revolutionary Women thinkers. We read and discussed works from Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Octavia Butler, and Kimberle Crenshaw. Over 75 people joined us as we learned and grew together.
Many have asked for additional reading, so we wanted to provide a few places people could turn to for some additional reading:
Finally, check out our Bibliography for the Revolution! Make sure you keep up with what BLM Nashville and Protect the Culture are doing. We’ll be back in February with another Books & Breakfast. And if you haven’t already, consider donating to help us keep this movement going.