New Movement Confronting Police Violence Could Expand to Address Economic Inequality

Posted Dec. 24, 2014

MP3 Interview with Paul Engler, founding director of the Center for the Working Poor in Los Angeles, conducted by Scott Harris


In a sustained eruption of activism not seen in America since the Occupy Wall Street movement blossomed in September 2011, anti-police violence activists continued to organize protests in hundreds of cities across the U.S. Participants in these street protests are a diverse group comprised of old and young, urban and suburban and black and white. Outrage at a recent grand jury decision not to indict a white police officer involved in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager in Ferguson, Missouri and a similar decision in the case of the police chokehold death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old unarmed black man in New York City, were the catalyst that launched coast-to-coast protests.

The slogans of this new civil rights movement, "Black lives matter," "Hands up, don't shoot" and "I can’t breathe," were seen and heard when Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network led a march of more than 10,000 in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 13. After the Dec. 20 execution-style murder of two New York City police officers by a man who struggled with mental illness, some police officials and politicians attempted to link the protest movement to the terrible crime. But with the long history and emotional resonance of police violence in communities of color across the country, the overwhelmingly peaceful protests have continued undeterred.

Protesters are making a number of similar demands that include strengthening of civilian complaint review boards, the use of body and dashboard cameras by police, special prosecutors to investigate police misconduct and laws against racial profiling. But some activists say that protests need to move beyond police brutality and focus on issues such as housing, unemployment and improving inner-city schools. Between The Lines' Scott Harris spoke with Paul Engler, founding director of the Center for the Working Poor in Los Angeles and co-author with his brother Mark Engler of the recent article, “What Makes Nonviolent Movements Explode?” Here, he discusses the political climate, organizing strategies and the power of disruption, all important elements in what makes some movements for social change succeed and others fail.

Read Paul Engler's article co-written with his brother, Mark Engler, titled, "What Makes Nonviolent Movements Explode?".

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