As a few hundred people marched through Atlanta in peaceful demonstration on Friday, Ga. NAACP President Francys Johnson addressed the state and the nation. Although Johnson cited standing in solidarity with Tulsa and Charlotte as the primary reasons for the march, he also laid out demands for the future:
“We’re here tonight to stand in solidarity with Tulsa and Charlotte. And stand in solidarity to those who’ve lost their lives right here in Georgia. That black lives do matter.
“I believe – that black lives matter. And if they matter, then the people who run this state – the people who we have elected to office – will hear our legitimate demands.
“No more business as usual. There is a time to do what is right, and reform criminal justice. This system is broken. It’s been broken. But we intend to fix it. And if you don’t fix it then we will shut it down. Fix it – or shut it down.
“We demand: Common sense reform
“We demand: To amend sovereign immunity laws that protect police departments from civil suit and criminal prosecution.
“We demand: Wholesale reform of who can be police in this state. We need more kindergarten teachers – art teachers – music teachers, and less police.
“We demand: More accountability for law enforcement officers engaged in killing black people, in killing white people, in killing brown people, in killing all people.
Although it was an overtly peaceful and unifying speech, Johnson takes a hard stance against police brutality, saying “if you don’t fix it then we will shut it down.” This is an especially important sentiment in Georgia where police brutality cases aren’t often prosecuted and police departments protect officers who do wrong.
Georgia has a long way to go. Just Friday, North Springs High School in Sandy Springs, confiscated at least one Black Lives Matter T-shirt, referring to BLM as a “terrorist organization.” That’s why Georgia needs people like Francys Johnson and why we need to listen to what he has to say.