Black Mothers Speak Out at the UN against Police Brutality
On October 3, 2022, Collette Flanagan, founder of the Dallas-based group, Mothers Against Police Brutality, spoke before the United Nations-Human Rights Council sharing the story of her son, Quinton Allen. Allen was murdered by the Dallas Police Department in 2013. Flanagan was alongside Jurema Wurneck, a human rights activist from Amnesty International Brazil, and Justice Yvonne Mokgoro, the president of the expert Mechanism on issues of police brutality.
Flanagan’s testimony started with the story of her son, who was perceived to be a threat to the officer that killed him. She explained that “police have killed 7,000 people between 2015 and 2021. Less than one percent result in an indictment.” Flanagan’s presentation elevated the issues of human rights in policing and the treatment of families and communities suffering from extrajudicial killings. It addressed resourcing communities of color instead of criminalizing them.
The top policy recommendations that Flanagan proposed were, changing the qualifications for the use of deadly force from the current standard where officers can use deadly force on the perception of a threat, not on the existence of a threat. Flanagan’s compromise would be to base the legal validity of using deadly force on the observable conditions at the scene. She believes this change would protect unarmed individuals and those during a mental health crisis.
Her next policy recommendation was to end qualified immunity, a top agenda item for Civil Rights organizations like the NAACP. Qualified immunity is the protection government officials have from civil lawsuits while performing their jobs. This legal mechanism is what most officers use to shield themselves from lawsuits by families and individuals that have been impacted by police violence. Ending qualified immunity would create a smoother process for individuals and families to hold individual officers accountable for their misconduct.
Flanagan said that directly impacted mothers are gaining skills to change policing and policy. This is true in Minnesota, where impacted mothers are and have been the center of the anti-police brutality movement, with mothers Valerie Castile and Toshira Garraway. The policy positions that Flanagan raised at the UN have been raised to the Minnesota Legislature by the Minnesota Based group, Families Supporting Families Against Police Violence.
Locally, Nationally, and now internationally, mothers are calling for change, but can we have hope that the UN will act? Since the UN’s inception, Black Americans like WEB Dubois, Paul Robeson, and William Patterson have appealed to the international body to hold the American Government accountable for their infringement on African Americans’ civil and human rights. These efforts stumbled due to sabotage by the American government or the top-heavy bureaucracy and ineffectiveness of the UN.
After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, the UN and other international organizations ignited their efforts to investigate and gather information on the plight of Black Americans. Flanagan’s appearance on the international platform may showcase the UN’s and America’s shift to begin to prioritize impacted Black voices.
Across the nation, Black mothers are organizing and fighting for policy change at all levels of government. After years of fighting with further crenelated politicians, Black Mothers impacted by police violence have brought their fight to the United Nations.
Mothers Against Police Brutality is currently accumulating stories of mothers who have lost their loved ones to police killings. Share your story here: https://mothersagainstpolicebrutality.org/827-2/
Watch the statement here: https://roku-bwm.s3.us-east-2.amazonaws.com/video/20221003-cf-un-final.mp4