Press Statements

For Immediate Release, September 15, 2017

OBS Response to Stockley Verdict

The Organization for Black Struggle stands in staunch solidarity with the family of Anthony Lamar Smith. The Not Guilty verdict is salt in the wounds of the Smith family who sought real justice in the murder of their loved one.  The African American community is full of righteous rage as the ruling of Judge Timothy Wilson represents another douse of gasoline on the perpetual fire of racism and police violence against our community. OBS will not be used to quell the outrage by justice-seeking people to this verdict nor be an apologist for extreme actions by citizens.

OBS worked for over thirty years for local control of the police department to ensure we have accountability to our community. The mayor, the police chief and other city officials must understand there will not and cannot be business as usual in this city when a black life is taken.

OBS believes in non-violent protest and direct action. We also believe that our community must be focused on building alternatives to the police state. This calls for thoughtful education and strategic organizing. When we truly re-envision public safety and how to re-invest our hard-earned tax dollars, old power relationships will change and we are empowered to build something that works for us. We must be creative in our thinking and organizing, such as instituting neighborhood safety patrols, develop mediation centers and creating healing circles.

There is much work to be done as our community grieves its loss. We call for community, faith, civic and labor sectors to come together to plan effectively and to build a powerful racial justice movement in a city and a country that continues to daily engage in anti-black practices and actions. We are the people we have been waiting for.

 

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The Burden of Black Mothers

A commentary by OBS member Jessica Estes. Read it here.

 

 

 

 

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For Immediate Release – July 23, 2017

Organization for Black Struggle echoes shut down of Workhouse

“We need to shut this hell-hole down!”

That was the reaction from Derek Laney who participated in one of the recent protests to demand relief for the residents of the St. Louis Medium Security Institution. Laney is a member of the Organization for Black Struggle, a group who has worked on issues around the prison industrial complex for nearly 40 years.

Laney went on to say, “The Workhouse is in violation of the human and constitutional rights of citizens. This isn’t some Third World country, this is St. Louis, MO in the U.S.A.”

The recent heatwave in the city sent temperatures into triple digits. Reported temperatures in the Workhouse reached 120 degrees because the facility does not have central air conditioning. Residents told OBS that they were given ice chips and rotated to air-conditioned spaces as temporary remedies.

The heat problem has added to the many reasons why OBS and other concerned citizens believe the institution should be closed. It has a long history of abuses and injustices for a population which hasn’t even been convicted of any crimes. Most are waiting to be bonded out or for some judicial ruling; some will even be released for lack of evidence or have their charges dropped because they were wrongfully arrested.  Until then, citizens are exposed to unsanitary and unsafe conditions and to abuses by guards.

OBS is calling for Mayor Lyda Krewson and Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner to develop a plan that closes the Workhouse before the next city budget process. The savings can go to diversion programs that allow citizens who are accused of non-violent crimes to post bond and to access a speedy process for resolution of their alleged crime.

We believe the St. Louis Jails are a judicial entrapment for Black and poor people who are victims of racial profiling and a corrupt justice system. Right now, the Workhouse is looking like a death trap.

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July 2, 2017. OBS releases statement on the launch of “Black Jurors Matter” Campaign

OBS Launches “Black Jurors Matter” Campaign

The Organization for Black Struggle has launched a campaign focused on educating African Americans about the important of jury duty. The campaign comes after years of the group’s work on issues that end in the judicial system and seeing the jury pool demographics shift against Black defendants. The campaign is also motivated by concerns voiced by defense attorneys whose clients end up with all-white or nearly all-white juries.

Black jurors are twice as like to be struck from juries as their white counterpart. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have a designated amount of juror strikes that are legal and that they believe will not serve their interests. The U.S. Constitution guarantees a jury of one’s peers and peremptory strikes can be illegal if they deliberately discriminate against a prospective juror’s race or ethnicity.

When a Black defendant is facing a serious charge, it is discouraging to watch Black jurors be excused whether by their own reasons or by the peremptory strikes. The current jury selection process is not a fair and equitable one that encourages citizen participation.

OBS Founder Jamala Rogers admits the daily stipend for jury service is discouragingly low for those workers whose employers may let them off but who don’t pay for the days off.  “The current juror system needs to be seriously revamped. There are some citizens that get called for service regularly while others I know have never been called to serve. We must elevate jury duty to that of being a radical act of civic participation.”

The Organization was founded in 1980 and has a long history in police brutality cases and wrongful convictions. The group believes the Black jurors matter in a racist judicial system and will be working to engage African American citizens in the importance of their participation in creating a justice-friendly environment in a hostile courtroom.

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OBS released a press statement on May 16, 2017 in response to the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling regarding the racially exploited court policies and practices in St. Louis municipalities.

On Tuesday, May 16, 2017 the Missouri Supreme Court struck down a section of the 2015 law that targeted predominantly African American municipalities for racial profiling to extort court fines. The municipalities filed suit after their cap was set by law to securing 12.5 percent of their city revenue from traffic fines and court fees. Across the state, the law set the bar at 20 percent.

While the Organization for Black (OBS) believes that the law discriminated against the municipalities, it believes that the law should have set the bar at 12.5 percent for all the state. OBS was disappointed that the mainly black municipalities followed the historically racist practices of using black citizens as cash cows—or in the words of former U.S. Attorney Eric Holder–as “ATM machines.”

Jamala Rogers took offense to the words of David Pittinsky, attorney for the 12 municipalities when he said his clients were “not pariahs and they’re not second-class citizens,” and that they deserve to be treated fairly.

“The poor and working class African Americans residents who lived and still live in those predominantly black cities and village are not second-class citizens either and deserve to also be treated fairly. I hope that black elected officials from mayors to city councils will take the high, creative road to come up with alternative ways of generating revenue for their citizens.

The Organization for Black Struggle will continue its work to expose laws and policies that discriminate against citizens based upon race, gender, sexual orientation or religion. We are committed to the fight for fairness in the courts and to accountability of police.