Why I’m in Brazil: Mothers for Police Accountability in the Americas

My name is Marion Gray-Hopkins, and I am the proud mother of Gary Hopkins, Jr. Gary was killed on November 27th, 1999, at the age of 19 when he was shot and killed by law enforcement in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Gary was attending a dance at a local fire station and, after breaking up a fight and while sitting on the outside ledge of the car, preparing to leave when he was approached by a first officer who pulled him off, and with his gun to his head. A second officer alleged that he saw Gary reach for the first officer’s gun, and fired the fatal shot that ended Gary’s life. Gary was killed just sixteen days after I lost my husband to bone cancer.

I fight many years later, still, because I have no other choice. Gary’s death is one of the many that are lost every day at the hands of law enforcement. And again and again, you see people in power choose to neglect opportunities for change.

Over the past few years, I’ve organized on the frontlines of this struggle with a cohort of other mothers that have lost their children to police violence and community gun violence as the Coalition of Concerned Mothers. Together, we’ve lobbied for change, from the halls of Congress to delivering 100,000 signatures to implement data collection at the Department of Justice with Daily Kos, 18millionrising, Amnesty International and a coalition of other organizations. We’ve testified in Annapolis and Washington, DC.

We have been, and will always be, asking for real long-term solutions for the injustices that we feel every single day due to the loss of our children. We must be committed to stopping violence at the hands of those that are sworn to protect and serve us.

This week, I am in Rio de Janeiro to join mothers from Brazil and Jamaica with Amnesty International. Systemic racism against black people is at the root of this human rights crisis across the Americas, and it’s no surprise that the skin color of those that are disproportionately killed at the hands of the police right here in the United States is the same as those in the favelas.

I’ll be documenting my journey and look forward to sharing it with all who will listen. This Wednesday, there will be a livestream of our public panel, and I hope you can tune in.

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