Family of Rayshard Brooks demands charges against officers; ‘March on Georgia’ demands end to systemic racism

The family of Rayshard Brooks called for criminal charges against the officers involved in his death Monday while energized protesters conducted a “March on Georgia” to the State Capitol demanding an end to systemic racism.

More than a dozen relatives gathered for a tearful, emotionally-charged press conference, remembering Brooks for his bright smile and big heart. His widow, Tomika Miller, pleaded for peaceful protests to keep her husband’s name “positive and great.”

“I know he’s smiling because his name will forever be remembered,” Miller said. “I can never tell my daughter, he’s coming to take you skating or to swimming lessons. It’s going to be a long time before I heal.”

Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by white Atlanta police officer outside a Wendy’s restaurant late Friday. Brooks’ cousin, Tiara Brooks, said the tragedy must be a catalyst for change in the city.

“We must all agree on one fact – he was killed by the Atlanta Police Department,” Brooks said.  “The trust that we have with the police force is broken. The only way to heal some of these wounds is through a conviction and drastic change in the police department.”

Earlier, Tomika Miller, said she wants the officers involved in her husband’s death treated the way he would be treated if he shot them, she said.

“I want them to go to jail,” Miller said on CBS This Morning. “If it was my husband who shot them, he would be in jail, he would be doing a life sentence.”

The protest drew more than 1,000 people to the Richard B. Russell Federal Building to hear speakers ranging from rapper Jeezy to Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce and elected officials, activists, and NAACP leaders. The decried police violence, voter suppression, and disparities in the education system. 

“I didn’t come here to speak as a head coach. I came here to speak because a lot of people know me as a friend, cousin, a nephew, a brother,” Pierce said. “I’m a Black man and I came here to speak as a Black man to the city of Atlanta.”

The Rev. Jamal Bryant of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church said the crowd had gathered “because we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We’re sick and tired of having to beg for human decency.” 

The state NAACP announced plans for the rally soon after the death of Brooks, who had fallen asleep in his car in the Wendy’s drive-thru and was later shot as he fled officers following a struggle. Rally organizers want state lawmakers to repeal the “Citizens Arrest” and “Stand Your Ground” statutes and oppose a proposal that would not longer require the State Election Board to ensure Georgia counties comply with federal voting laws.

What is systemic racism? Here’s what it means and how you can help dismantle it

Jerry Gonzalez, founder of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, urged the crowd to demand the resignation of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Georgia NAACP President James Woodall spoke against citizen arrests.

 “Citizens arrest was a way for people to recapture emancipated slaves,” he said, adding that “There is no reason why we should continue to see our brothers and our sisters, our sons and our daughter, our mothers and our fathers dead for no apparent reason.”

Marvette St. Clair, a protestor from Conyers, Georgia, said she feels a responsibility to continue the work Martin Luther King Jr. started. 

“I’m out here because as a people we have to stand together against racism,” said St. Clair, who is Black. “We have to dismantle this system and build a system that works for our people.”

Josie Skinner, a white woman from Atlanta, held up a sign that said “Your fight is my fight.” 

“I care about the cause even if I’m not directly impacted by it,” Skinner said. “It’s like they never learn. Why are you still shooting black men? How many more steps could have been taken prior to shooting him that were not taken.” 

Eric Bell’s grandparents were deeply involved in Atlanta’s Civil Rights Movement. They protested, marched, and litigated, he said, so that he could have a brighter future. As he made his toward the city’s state house Monday morning with thousands of other protesters, he said he was following in their footsteps.

“They sacrificed for what we have now,” he said. “What they went through and what they fought for still hasn’t come to fruition. I’m not a father, but it scares me that I’ll have to have the same conversations with my kids that they had with me.”

Brooks’ death was ruled a homicide Sunday, the result of “two gunshot wounds of his back that created organ injuries and blood loss,” the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office said in a release.

‘Two gunshot wounds of his back’: Rayshard Brooks’ death ruled as homicide

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said a decision on possible charges could be made this week.

Within hours of the shooting, the Wendy’s restaurant had burned and Police Chief Erika Shields had stepped down from her post. On Sunday, the department announced that officer Garrett Rolfe, a seven-year veteran of the force who shot Brooks, was fired. Officer Devin Brosnan, on the force for less than two years, was placed on administrative duty.

The Brooks family believes more must be done. Niece Chassidy Evans said her uncle should not have been “shot and killed like trash in the street for falling asleep in a drive-thru.”

“One of our biggest fears became our reality,” Evans said. “This time it landed on our front doorstep. We’re not only pleading for justice, but we’re also pleading for change.”

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