PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Labor for Black Lives Coalition is an anti-racist organization that seeks to create a multi-racial labor movement, inclusive of all working people. We have consistently condemned the overpolicing, excessive use of force and systemic racism that too often leads to the murder of a Black person, whether armed or unarmed. Regardless of the circumstances we have seen time and time again via undeniable video the unforgiving and unyielding punishment that awaits Black people who come into contact with the legal system.
By now we’ve all seen the video of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27 year old Black man being shot 10 times by Philadelphia police in front of his family. As labor unions and advocates for justice, fairness and equality for all, regardless of where a person comes from or what they look like, we strongly condemn the police’s handling of the matter, which did not have to end tragically. There is no doubt that police across the country are trained on how to de-escalate situations exactly like what happened with Walter Wallace, and video after video we’ve seen non Black people being handled lightly, cautiously and safely when brandishing weapons or acting unseemly and uncooperative. There is no doubt that Walter Wallace could and should have survived the encounter.
In the video you can hear neighbors and family members pleading with the police not to shoot Mr. Wallace. Reports have surfaced which show that Mr. Wallace may have been in the middle of a mental health crisis which led to his erratic behavior. Unfortunately, too many times Black people are not given the same assumption of innocence as is enjoyed by white suspects but are instead swiftly judged and executed.
The Labor for Black Lives Coalition stands in solidarity with the family of Walter Wallace, and the community in which the tragic events took place. We support the activists, advocates, and stakeholders who fight daily for racial equity, equality and the movement for Black lives.This coalition calls upon the federal government, the Pennsylvania State Legislature in coalition with the Legislative Black Caucus, and local elected officials to take bold action against the epidemic that is the executions of Black people at the hands of the law enforcement agencies funded by their own taxpayer dollars. We demand meaningful legislation that will immediately put an end to this terror.
This coalition calls upon you to reimagine not only Pennsylvania, but America. Reimagine public safety where the police are not the first responders in every situation, but mental health professionals (crisis mobile for example) are also integrated into the response system. We challenge you to reimagine public safety as a whole, where law enforcement are part of the community, de-militarized and represent the people they are hired to protect. Reimagine the funding that goes into the unnecessary militarization of police, which could instead be used to reinvest in marginalized communities where these incidents often occur, creating community resources to level the playing field towards more opportunities. We challenge police unions to look inward and become a proactive part of police accountability and not obstruct the process. We imagine a Pennsylvania where communities engage in oversight of law enforcement. We challenge stakeholders to lift up organizations that represent black people and form broader coalitions because at the end of the day we all want the same things. We want a good education for our children and for them to come home safely. We all want a living wage and a place to lay our heads at night.
Lastly we call upon the community at large to make your voices heard in next week’s election. Although we know that elected leaders won’t solve all of our problems, voting for the right candidates will solve some. In these trying times it is important to incorporate every tool at our disposal and voting is just one tool among many others that must be used to further the fight for black existence. We thank the undersigned organizations for standing with this coalition to call for justice.
The Undersigned Organizations
SEIU PA State Council
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania
SEIU Local 32BJ
SEIU Local 668
PA Joint Board of Workers United SEIU
District 1199C National Union of Hospital and Health Care Union
We the People PA
Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP)
Pennsylvania Stands Up
Local 3012 BMWED-IBT
Action Together NEPA
We The People Coalition
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers
PA For Our Future