Williams Again Sits During Pledge As Protest To Police Killings

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They might stand for something in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but sitting is as good a way to protest as any in Flatbush.

City Councilman Jumaane Williams
City Councilman Jumaane Williams

So said City Council Member Jumaane Williams (Flatbush, East Flatbush, Midwood), who once again sat during the pledge of allegiance instead of rising to his feet, putting his had over his heart and reciting the pledge at yesterday’s stated City Council meeting.

Williams remarks came in part as a response to City Council Member Robert Cornegy Jr. (Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), who succeeded in getting nearly the entire City Council to stand and sing the Negro National Anthem, also known as Lift Every Voice And Sing, before yesterday’s meeting. Cornegy had stated that, “In Bed-Stuy we don’t sit for something, we take a stand for something.”

But Williams thinks that movement around how people are treated in this country, in general, has always been powerful. “That has included people sitting-in, laying down, and a whole host of actions and I think that all those actions are commendable and powerful. And my sitting down is trying to continue that tradition.”  said Williams, voicing his opinion on his form of protest.

City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr
City Councilman Robert Cornegy Jr

The councilman went so far as inviting St. Louis Mayoral Candidate Antonio French to his ‘silent protest’ in order to bring awareness to the injustices he believes are propagating through the African-American community at the hands of police officers.

“Now you are seeing leaders engage in peaceful and in some cases silent protests and yet the critics still say that that’s not proper. I think ultimately that what they [critics] want is for people to be quiet on these issues and I hope that day doesn’t come,” said French, who is an alderman in the St. Louis City Council. “It is as American as apple pie for folks to engage in their civil rights and be able to peacefully protest.”

French was in Ferguson during the riots that followed the shooting death of high school student, Michael Brown as he walked home with a friend in 2014. French is credited in helping maintain peace in the restless city that was experiencing endless days of violent protesting and unrest following the incident. 

The move comes on the heels of a national debate on the police brutality that has claimed countless lives of unarmed Black men across the nation. The most recent incident being the shooting death of Terence Crutcher in Oklahoma by Officer Beth Shelby. Crutcher was stalled on the road when he was fatally shot according to Shelby, “for not responding to verbal commands.”

The protest against the pledge started earlier this year by the Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, in the off-season in a move to make his own statement in response to seemingly weekly killings of unarmed African-American men by ‘white’ police officers. The nation embraced the form of non-violent protest and people across the U.S. have used it to stand strong with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Williams said he is also glad the the City Council took a unified stand in singing the Black National Anthem today.

Editor’s Note: KCP is in a quandary on whether to call, Lift Every Voice And Sing, the Negro National Anthem or the more politically correct, Black National Anthem. It is clearly well-known by many as the Negro National Anthem, and called that by many multigenerational American blacks including Cornegy. KCP believes it is appropriate to call it that as well because it gives a little more of a historical perspective to the ongoing Civil Rights struggle in this, our country. On the other hand, some might be offended by the term, Negro, and thus many, including Williams, calls the song, the Black National Anthem. KCP invites readers to chime in with their thoughts on the matter.

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