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    02.03.15 BLS Community Holds Town Hall Meeting to Discuss Race and Social Justice Issues
    Brooklyn Law School - Town Hall

    On Wednesday, January 28, a packed gathering of BLS students, faculty members, and staff assembled in the Student Lounge for a Town Hall meeting titled: “After Ferguson? After Garner? After…?” The meeting was planned by the faculty in December in response to increasing concerns by the public about protecting the legal rights of minorities after the grand jury decisions in Staten Island and Ferguson, Missouri, not to indict police officers involved in the deaths of unarmed black men.

    Professor Susan Herman welcomed the crowd of students, and opened the floor to student comments and questions. A panel of faculty including Professors William Araiza, Ursula Bentele, Alafair Burke, Michael Cahill, Bennett Capers, Stacy Caplow, Cynthia Godsoe, Joel Gora, Stephan Landsman, Christina Mulligan, Elizabeth Schneider, and Beryl Jones-Woodin weighed in with their thoughts from a variety of legal perspectives.

    “You often want to say, the jury didn’t follow the law, or the grand jury didn’t follow the law, but the real problem is often the law itself,” Professor Capers said, responding to a student’s question about flaws in the legal system. “One problem is we tend to want laws that are neutral, and it makes sense to want laws that are neutral. But how do we create laws that are neutral and recognize that fact that race matters. Gender matters. Age matters. So many of us – all of us – have biases.”

    Questions ranged from the meaning of “law enforcement” to the impact of “broken window policing” and the prevalence of “white privilege.” Many students shared anecdotes and personal experiences of their own encounters with law enforcement officers. 

    “One of the bigger picture issues that concerns me is the gross over-criminalization that our law represents,” Professor Gora said. “Eric Garner sold a cigarette. I believe the initial contact with Mr. Brown in Ferguson was that, supposedly, he was walking in the street and not on the sidewalk. The idea that a policeman can encounter you for things like that… We should really be looking to decrease the number of encounters between the police and the citizenry by reducing the number of minor crimes that police investigate.”

    Professor Schneider concluded the Town Hall meeting, stating: “I would like everyone here to be thinking very strategically, very programmatically, about what you can do, what your student organizations can do, from students to professors, what all of us as faculty can do, to move this conversation forward. Perhaps we should have one or two other town meetings during the course of the semester to bring some of these issues to the fore.”

    See also:

    BLS Students Organize “Die-In”