On Thursday night an emergency community meeting was held in Mobile to demand justice for Jawan Dallas and discuss how the community can use their power to affect change.
The gathering was held at All Saints Episcopal Church and included Christine Dallas and Phil Williams, Jawan’s parents, attorneys for the Dallas family and Rev. Dr. William James Barber.
Rev. Jim Flowers, director of All Saints, said that the community gathered there to demand change in a broke system.
“We are here to demand change in a broken and dangerous system, a system of violence,” Flowers said. “And in particular, a change in the way we as a community protect and serve the security of our citizens. We all lose in a system that relies on violence. Jawan paid the price with his life. And all of us bear to some extent or another the trauma of such violence even the police officers themselves. The system affects, infects, all of us, and it has to change.”
Throughout the meeting, the audience would chant Justice For Jay. The strategic use of voting was also mentioned multiple times to remove or pressure city council members, the mayor and other elected officials to listen to the demands of their constituents. Barber called on the community to exercise their power during the next elections to oust city officials they were unhappy with.
In attendance were Mobile City Council members CJ Smalls and Cory Penn. Mayor Sandy Stimpson was not present.
Barber also added that he and the Dallas family’s attorneys have officially invited the U.S. Attorney General to investigate Mobile’s Police Department. One or more community members could also be heard calling for the resignation of Chief of Police Paul Prine.
“If you misuse your power and you are an officer of the law you are wrong, wrong, wrong,” Barber said. “If have a gun and a badge and a license from the people to protect and serve the people, we’re not going to stand when you terrorizing and hurting,”
One of the family’s attorneys, Harry Daniels, spoke about the body cam video they were able to view last week of Jawan’s death. Daniels reiterated that it was one of the worst videos he had ever seen and said that “injustice is afoot in Mobile, Alabama” not just in reference to Jawan but other recent incidents police have been involved in.
On Nov. 13 the Mobile Police Department shot and killed a 16-year-old boy during a pre-dawn raid on a marijuana warrant, which the teenager was not even the suspect of. The family of the young man killed saw the body cam footage the next day in that shooting death.
In the video of Jawan he stated that he did not want to be the next George Floyd and complained about not being able to breathe. Prior to the family seeing the body camera footage, a grand jury already decided that there was no evidence to indict the officers involved in Jawan’s death.
Daniels stressed that Jawan was completely innocent and the grand jury decision was essentially a “punt” by the District Attorney Keith Blackwood. There is a widely known phrase referencing grand juries that a prosecutor could, “indict a ham sandwich,” given how the institution operates.
“You tell me that the grand jury cannot indict because you didn’t give nothing to the grand jury to indict,” Daniels said. “…How can a person who is innocent who has the right to freedom, right to walk away, run away be accosted by law enforcement, beaten and nobody’s held accountable for his death.”
Christine and Phil closed the meeting by thanking the community for their support and continuing to fight alongside them for their son.
“I thank God for all of you,” Christine said. “Because since Jay left we’ve been surrounded with angels which is y’all. We could not have made it. I know I could not have made it this far without people like you, people I don’t even know, praying for our family. We appreciate y’all.”
Christine also addressed the family of the teenager killed by police saying she was happy and proud they got see the video. Christine felt that was made possible because of the pressure they put on Mobile advocating to see the body cam footage involving Jawan.
Phil offered impassioned closing remarks saying he “was going all the way in for his family,” and he promised to keep fighting.
“We didn’t see Jay for Thanksgiving and I know we won’t see him on this side no more but I haven’t told Jay bye I just told him I’ll see you later,” Phil said. “I’m gone fight, I’m gone work, I’m gone march, I’m gone sing and holler. I’m gone keep this movement going even when we get to the bottom and I know it’s the bottom coming.”
The gathering closed with a prayer calling for ‘Justice for Jay.’