July 8, 2016

CONTACT: Lindsay Kee, ACLU-TN communications director, 615-320-7142

NASHVILLE – In the wake of a sniper attack in Dallas, Texas that left five police officers dead and seven others injured, as well as the killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota at the hands of police earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee issued the following statement:

“This week we lost far too many lives. Two more young Black men – Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota – were killed by police officers. Then at a non-violent demonstration in Texas protesting their deaths, snipers opened fire on police officers, killing five and wounding seven.

Though the details surrounding the killings of civilians Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and police officer Brent Thompson and four other officers are still unfolding, these deaths are nothing short of tragic. Heartbreaking. Enraging.

Our hearts are heavy and our condolences go out to the families of all those who so senselessly died this week.

It is our collective responsibility to confront the racial polarization that led to the horrors of the past four days. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that law enforcement’s disproportionate use of excessive — and far too often fatal — force against people of color comes to an end. But the answer to violence by police is not violence against police. For it is also our collective responsibility to ensure that law enforcement officers are safe as they protect our communities and our right to exercise free speech.

The path to peace can only come through justice.

We must forge our outrage not into a bullet, but a hammer – a hammer wielded collaboratively to break down systemic injustices that have long needed addressing and to rebuild a fairer and more equal criminal justice system in its place.

The challenges we are confronting are monumental. But the alternative is unthinkable. Over time, the daily injustices — the patterns of racial profiling and excessive use of force, the absence of fair and equal treatment of poor people and communities of color — oppress people's very spirit. They also undermine the efforts of police officers who are working daily to improve community-police relations, who willingly risk their lives to protect individuals and promote public safety.

We need to interrupt this cycle of violence. We must find a way to work together. We cannot afford to wait any longer.

ACLU — both in Tennessee and across the country — will not let up in our tireless pursuit of structural transformation of the criminal justice system. We want justice. We want peace. And we are committed to moving forward with urgency and determination.”