The President of the NAACP Legal Defense and essayist Sherrilyn Ifill backs a civil rights lawsuit filed by NFL player Michael Bennett, a Seattle Seahawks Defensive End, against the Las Vegas police department after police targeted and abusively detained him.
According to a letter he posted on his Twitter account, on August 26th after the Mayweather-McGregor boxing match, Bennett was targeted for being a black man, arrested, thrown to the ground, and threatened immediately following a shooting in the area.
Held at the Open Society Foundations headquarters near Columbus Circle, Ifill and legal scholar Angela J. Davis were discussing their new book, “Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and Imprisonment,” before a crowded room and overflow room packed with fans of their work.
“We have a democracy problem. Not a black people problem, you know, and not a race problem,” Ifill stated as the panel began.
The book, a collection of essays edited by Davis, focuses on policing and racial discrimination in the U.S and the impact of the criminal justice system on African American boys and men. Ifill and Davis, delved into why prosecutors, local public officials, and police often create racial disparities in the legal system because they hold all the control with no real transparency.
Bennett announced his intent to file the lawsuit hours prior to the start of the panel. During the Q&A portion, an attendee asked if civil rights lawsuits against police officials affect the progress towards a solution to routine racial discrimination.
Ifill said, “It does matter very, very powerfully. It’s part of the equation.” She expressed a hope that individual claims, new patterns and practices of the justice department, and prosecutors willing to take action would raise consciousness. “I was thrilled. He [Michael Bennett] was willing and he wasn’t just going to suck it up.”
She closed the discussion saying that the civil rights lawsuit is just a small stepping stone in a bunch of processes designed to pressure the criminal justice system into change, but a necessary one.