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Brooklyn Bar Association encourages legal community to fight against systemic racism

June 8, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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Just a day after the president of the Women’s Bar Association for the State of New York issued a statement in support of peaceful protests, the Brooklyn Bar Association’s board of trustees said that it stands with the family of George Floyd and encourages the fight against systemic racism.

“The Brooklyn Bar Association stands with the family of George Floyd and those appalled by the events of May 25, 2020, that culminated in the senseless and tragic death of Mr. Floyd by individuals who took an oath to protect and to serve the very community and city that Mr. Floyd held so dear to his heart,” said the statement. “The Brooklyn Bar Association is committed to promoting the values of diversity and inclusion in order to achieve and sustain excellence in the legal profession and to advance the fair administration of justice.”

George Floyd, 46, died on May 25 after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for approximately nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed. Two other officers assisted Chauvin while a third tried to prevent witnesses from filming. Floyd’s death has led to anti-police violence protests across the country and in Brooklyn.

The Brooklyn Bar Association said that Floyd’s death was a reminder of the death of Eric Garner, who died after he was choked by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo on July 17, 2014. The Staten Island District Attorney at the time, Dan Donovan, decided not to indict Pantaleo. Garner’s death led to similar protests.

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The Brooklyn Bar Association’s new president, Anthony Lamberti.

“Like many others before them, these were two African-American men who lost their lives in the midst of what should have been routine interactions with law enforcement,” the Brooklyn Bar Association statement said. “These events shocked the conscience and only served to heighten awareness of the systemic racism in this country, and widen the gulf between police departments and the communities they were hired to protect and serve.

“The Brooklyn Bar Association acknowledges that most police officers uphold the law and fulfill their oath with dignity and honor. Unfortunately, there are police officers who do not, resulting in far too many stories of disparate treatment of people of color, resulting in justified feelings of anger, sadness and hopelessness.”

So far, more than 2,000 New Yorkers have reportedly been arrested during the protests that have ensued, but the BBA is calling for them to continue.

The BBA explicitly stated that it does not condone violence, looting, rioting, or damage to property, but added, “We feel it important to acknowledge and disavow instances of clearly disproportionate, excessive force on the part of individual police officers against persons engaging in peaceful protest.

Armena Gayle, president-elect of the Brooklyn Bar Association.

“We must work together to regain trust, narrow the gulf, maintain a healthy dialogue, promote mutual interests and stop the senseless violence,” the statement went on to say. “To that end, we encourage the legal community and the Brooklyn community at large to stand up to fight racism. All people need to take action if we hope to combat the rampant and systemic racism that exists in our country.”

Links to the websites of the NAACP and ACLU were provided, where people are encouraged to donate or find information on how they can take action.

“Mr. Floyd was created equally with certain unalienable rights,” the statement concluded. “But, his life was cut short. Four police officers have been charged. Now we wait for the judicial system to act.”

Just a day earlier, the WBASNY President Joy Thompson issued a similar statement in which she came out in support of peaceful protests and promised that her Association would support the work of people fighting against injustice and inequality.

“As a 40-year-old women’s organization well versed in the history of injustice yet committed to the struggle for positive change, WBASNY stands, arms locked, against racism, intolerance and bigotry and for the fair and equal administration of justice for all,” Thompson said.

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