Black Activist Starts Group That Aims to Elect Progressive Prosecutors

Daniel Marans, Huffington Post, February 16, 2018

Shaun King, a prominent black rights activist and writer, announced Thursday that he is co-founding a political action committee to help elect “reform-minded prosecutors” at the county and city levels.

The Real Justice PAC plans to spend upward of $1 million to support campaigns by progressives running for district attorney offices this year.

The efforts should benefit from King’s enormous social media following, as well as the expertise of several veterans of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign who are the group’s other co-founders.

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“No position in America, no single individual has a bigger impact on the criminal justice system ― including police brutality, but the whole crisis of mass incarceration in general ― than your local district attorney,” King said. “They are the gatekeepers of America’s justice system.”

The PAC hopes to eventually also focus on electing sheriffs and judges who, among other things, would support reducing the number of people imprisoned for nonviolent offenses.

The questionnaire the PAC distributes to candidates it may endorse will ask where they stand on issues such the practice of cash bail, which often deprives low-income suspects of their freedom; the use of diversion programs for drug-related crimes; and the pursuit of the death penalty, which progressives oppose.

{snip}

Another priority for the PAC is electing more women and people of color to prosecutorial posts.

The country’s 2,400 district attorneys are notoriously non-diverse. As of 2015, 95 percent of them were white, 83 percent were men, and just 1 percent were women of color.

King likened the complexion and maleness of the group to the population at “any golf course in America.”

“I’m not saying white is evil and black is righteous,” said King, acknowledging there are examples of draconian black prosecutors and compassionate white prosecutors. “But it’s troubling when a system that primarily targets people of color has almost exclusively white men, and conservative white men at that, at the helm.”

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District attorney races remain an untapped opportunity for progressive activists to leverage relatively modest resources for major policy wins, according to King.

That’s because the lack of awareness of the office’s power, even in some of the most progressive parts of the country, had allowed deeply conservative or otherwise problematic DAs to serve for decades. {snip}

Even a minor uptick in turnout for DA races could produce significant results, King maintained.

{snip}

The new black rights movement grew organically in recent years in response to controversial police killings of black men and women, the vast majority of whom were unarmed.

The July 2014 death of Eric Garner on Staten Island after police put a chokehold on him was King’s wake-up call. {snip}

The movement for black lives has suffered a number of other frustrating setbacks, including the acquittal of, or failure to prosecute, police officers involved in the killings of black men in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore; and Minneapolis.

{snip}

 

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