ST. LOUIS — Dozens of families whose loved ones were killed by local police spoke out for the first time Tuesday, demanding justice in front of St. Louis City Hall.
The rally came on the same day the Justice Department updated its use of force policy for the first time in 18 years.
The new policy says federal agents have a duty to intervene if they see other law enforcement officials using excessive force. The announcement from the DOJ follows years of protests across the country involving officer-involved shootings.
Holding signs that read “Stop the Killing” at a peaceful rally, families with the ArchCity Defenders program against deadly state violence shared their stories and demands for the first time.
“Since the Fatal State Violence Response Program has started up and the families have been organizing and meeting, which was in November 2021, there have been about 22 killings in St. Louis alone. That includes police killings and in-custody jail deaths,” said Brittney Watkins, a staff attorney for the ArchCity Defenders.
The rally was focused on supporting surviving families of those killed by police or who died in state custody. Some of the families were rallying on behalf of the following:
- Cary T. Ball, Jr. — killed in April 2013
- Isaiah Hammett — killed by SWAT in June 2017
- Julius Graves — killed in April 2019
- Cortez Bufford — killed in December 2019
- Don Clark, Sr. – killed in February 2017
“I want no-knock raids gone because my son was killed in a no-knock raid — 93 shots, 24 in his body,” said Gina Torres, the mother of Isaiah Hammett. “What hurts the most is that the people that are supposed to protect us killed my child. It’s one of the worst nightmares.”
During the rally, the families expressed their demands to authorities and said they will continue to set up meetings with elected officials and hold rallies to voice their concerns.
The families publicly expressed the following demands:
- A full, unequivocal ban on the use of no-knock raids, “quick knock” raids, and other forms of militarized policing on St. Louis residents.
- A full, unequivocal ban on the police use of vehicular chases, which endanger not only the person being chased but the officers doing the chasing and bystanders.
- Truly independent investigations of killings by police, with real consequences and accountability.
- Increased transparency for surviving families on the circumstance of our loved ones’ death.
- Reparations for families who have lost loved ones to police violence.
A balloon release was also held Tuesday for the birthday commemoration of Cortez Bufford.