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Hands Up, Do't Shoot

Shenna Bellows

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Aug. 22, 2014

My home in Manchester, Maine is 1,345 miles from Ferguson, Missouri. This is where Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American youth, was killed by a white police officer almost two weeks ago.

But we are one nation, and the systemic oppression and persistent racial segregation that haunts so many communities in America are symptoms of an underlying sickness that haunts us all, no matter where we live.

In the aftermath of the shooting, reports from the ground tell us that the community and police organized – the community organized friends and neighbors to protest while the police organized their weapons and dogs, turning Ferguson into a scene more akin to a war zone than a community expressing their grief.

Shenna in the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" pose in solidarity with Ferguson community organizersIn the 13 days that have passed since the shooting, communities of color and their supporters have marched in the streets, protested in the parks, written in magazines, and spoken out on social networks, demanding accountability and an end to the criminalization and murder of black youth.

Michael Brown is not the only recent victim of police violence against black men. John Crawford – a 22-year-old in Ohio – was recently killed at a Walmart. Eric Garner – a 43-year-old in New York City - was unarmed when he was recently killed in a chokehold by a white officer.

In my eight years as head of the ACLU of Maine, I saw this sickness manifest itself time and time again. The lives and liberties of communities of color have been deemed less valuable and less important by a society that has not yet decided to reconcile its traumatic history of racial oppression. And so we have tragedy and fear and anger and death.

The shooting of Michael Brown is one that touches us all. It is an issue of internet freedom, as we demand an open and free internet where such injustices can be brought to light by traditionally marginalized and silenced communities. It is an issue of community safety, as we seek to stem the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement units as children play nearby. It is an issue of justice.

I support the calls for a full investigation of Michael Brown’s death. I support a new bill being introduced in the House of Representatives to demilitarize the police. I support Michael Brown’s friends and neighbors in their calls for justice, for without it, too many Americans cannot live in peace.

These are trying times, but they are ones from which we cannot shy away. This morning, the Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis requested that those who stand with them in solidarity change their Facebook profile photos to a “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” photo.

I am privileged in that it is unlikely that I will ever have to truly assume this pose. But today, I offer my solidarity with those who call for justice in this matter.  I invite you to join me in doing so as well.

Take care,


Paid For By Bellows for Senate.
Bellows for Senate

PO Box 136

Manchester ME 04351 United States