In videotaped remarks addressed to the crowd supporting accused cop killer Jermaine Washington at a daylong press conference in the basement of the North Carolina courthouse Thursday, the organizer of the event, Tarvaris Jackson, Jr., was hit with a barrage of pointed questions. He tried to defuse the tension by creating a productive dialogue, but the tone was so high-volume that it was uncomfortable. Mr. Jackson seemed tired and rushed. At times, he veered into rambling rants about colorism.
“I’m a black man, and I’m tired of it,” he said. “If I can’t wear my apparel the way I want to, I won’t wear it. … I’m tired of wearing my birthright, my color, out the door.”
Mr. Jackson also compared the rally to the “lynching” of Washington, an assertion widely contradicted by the videotape evidence in the trial of Washington’s fellow defendant, Shannon Batson, who was convicted of accessory after the fact after Washington’s death. “Would it be lynching?” Mr. Jackson said. “Would it be a legal lynching?”
Opposition to the police killing of Washington continues to be a powerful and polarizing force in America, especially in the South. The court proceedings leading up to and following Washington’s death have dominated the national media, and the tension that goes along with the debate has been magnified.
But this line of thinking was hijacked Thursday afternoon, when Mr. Jackson, in the span of just eight minutes, mouthed phrases that were barely coherent and seemed to boil down to two simple things: (1) People of color should be free to worship in the way they wish to worship, and (2) the treatment of people of color should be “pre-emptive.”
The campaign for justice in Washington’s killing has expanded widely, with huge rallies and vigils regularly taking place on the anniversary of his death and in his home town of Charlotte. There are also small-scale and often successful efforts by police departments, and educators in police academies, to teach departments how to de-escalate high-pressure situations with citizens.
It is noteworthy that Mr. Jackson, who is African-American, has fashioned himself as a leader of the movement for justice in Washington’s killing, but it is instructive that on Thursday he defined the spirit of justice as predicated on the need to neutralize people of color from ever rallying in defense of an unarmed black man who has been killed by a police officer.
For Mr. Jackson, it is important that Washington be perceived as a victim and not a suspect, and that he be met with openness when white protesters come forward to demonstrate in the same way black protesters have been met with violence and aggression. He repeatedly urged the crowd, which on Thursday appeared to be largely African-American, to “respect” white people, in the abstract, and “let it be known” how much he respected white police officers. (In an interview with The New York Times on Wednesday, Mr. Jackson said he could not respect white people even in the abstract, though he was careful to distinguish between his principles and the misdeeds of a few.)
Shortly after delivering a blistering speech about the need to use the word lynching to describe the events in Washington’s death, Mr. Jackson was prodded by a reporter to clarify his use of the word “lynching.”