TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – With people worldwide protesting the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody, I wanted to speak with a local chapter of the NAACP about the way he died, the fallout and the overarching issue of police brutality.
“It’s not that hard to do right, but it seems like when there is black skin involved it doesn’t happen,” says Clearwater Upper Pinellas County NAACP President Zebbie Atkinson IV.
That’s a sentiment shared by thousands of protesters who are demanding change after another black person died in police custody.
While our nation has a history of civil rights protests, Atkinson says, today’s demonstrations are different.
“In the 60s there was an ask, because we wanted civil rights. To sit in the front of the bus, as we wanted our kids to have a better education. That was more about equality then equity. Today is about four men killed a man,” says Atkinson.
The answer to the problem, he says should be simple. Treat everyone fairly.
“What’s the difference in black skin? Why is it, still to this day, in 2020, that it does not get the same respect, the same common courtesy, that anyone else would?” says Atkinson.
Whether it’s an in-custody police death or other citizens charged in the deaths of Black men and women, Atkinson says real change doesn’t happen without a protest.
“Protesting is good, there should be a protest. I believe there would not have been this protesting had those 4 officers been arrested at the time of Floyd’s death,” says Atkinson.
But he emphasizes that the looting and vandalism detracts from the powerful messages of the peaceful protests. And he wants that message turned into action. That is something the NAACP is focused on right now.
“Our national office is asking that a bill be written similar to the hate bill, that would govern police brutality or excessive forces,” says Atkinson.
Atkinson also says the NAACP wants to see the officers charged in the death of Floyd convicted.
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