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.
The family at BLM Atlanta put together a powerful video and a mandate for us all. Check it out.
[sound of helicopter above with music fading in]
Mary Hooks: All across the nation from Baton Rouge to Asheville to Minnesota, Black bodies and police violence is showing that this country is crushing under the weight of white supremacy.
[Sound of helicopter fades out and music continues]
Black leadership! Black leadership! Y’all said to us, “Every generation has a demand,” and you right. We do! Here’s what it is: Divest! Divest! Divest from prisons, jails, courts. The vision of justice for us does not include cages. The vision of justice for us allows us to walk in our communities with safety and dignity for all Black people: those that are differently abled, Black women, Black children, queer bodies, trans women. All of our brilliance deserves that. That is public safety. So, whoever is defining it come talk to us, because we have a different vision. Get behind it or get beside us and the organizations, and the communities, and the people we represent.
We just gettin’ ready! We just gettin’ ready. And to all of our people who are listening, all the people of the across the country right now, all of the people in solidarity right now from Canada to South Africa, all of our people in Palestine right now: This a different moment that we are in. We have a mandate! We have a mandate! And damn it we gon’ do it.
Mary: Call and response!
Person to Mary’s right: Call and response!
Mary: Call and response!
Crowd: Call and response!
Mary: Call and response!
Crowd: Call and response!
Mary: The mandate for Black people in this time!
Crowd: The mandate for Black people in this time!
Mary: Is to avenge the suffering of our ancestors!
Crowd: Is to avenge the suffering of our ancestors!
Mary: To earn the respect of future generations!
Crowd: To earn the respect of future generations!
Mary: And be willing to be transformed in the service of the work!
Crowd: And be willing to be transformed in the service of the work!
[Music plays till the end]
On August 1st, 2016 the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 50 organizations, released it’s platform. Black Lives Matter Nashville stands in solidarity with the organizations involved and the demands that have been raised. As the platform states:
Black humanity and dignity requires black political will and power. In response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities in the U.S. and globally, a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country have come together with renewed energy and purpose to articulate a common vision and agenda. We are a collective that centers and is rooted in Black communities, but we recognize we have a shared struggle with all oppressed people; collective liberation will be a product of all of our work.
Learn more about the platform here.
We’ve all been deeply impacted by the murder of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. We want to hold space for those of us who are mourning, in pain, and want to be around others. Join us Friday night at 7pm at Public Square.
Here’s what we’re asking you to bring:
Parking: you can find parking on the streets and in garages. We encourage folks to carpool if you can as it appears there will be a high turn out.
You can RSVP for the vigil on Facebook here.
For any inquiries, please email BLM Nashville at firstname.lastname@example.org