"'Hands up; don't shoot' is a rallying cry of people all across America who are fed up with police violence," Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said from the floor of the House on Monday night. And to punctuate the point, he mimicked the gesture that goes with the cry. He put his hands up.
"People are fed up all across America because of the injustice involved in continuing to see young, unarmed African-American men killed as a result of a gunshot fired by a law enforcement officer," he continued as part of the introductory speech in a series presented by the Congressional Black Caucus. The group, comprised of black members of Congress, quickly criticized the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson last week for the killing in Ferguson, Mo.
"People are fed up," Jeffries reiterated. "This is a problem that Congress can't run away from."
Jeffries's gesture comes a day after players on the St. Louis Rams ran onto the field during an NFL game performing the same gesture. That act provoked a strong reply from the St. Louis Police Officers' Association, which dismissed it as "way out-of-bounds." "The gesture has become synonymous with assertions that Michael Brown was innocent of any wrongdoing and attempting to surrender peacefully," the group's statement read, "when Wilson, according to some now-discredited witnesses, gunned him down in cold blood."
Witness accounts of what happened at the moment of Brown's death differ, with some claiming that Brown had his hands raised in surrender.
Other members of the CBC took the floor to echo Jeffries' point. "If we are to learn anything from the tragic death of Michael Brown," CBC Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said, "we must first acknowledge that we have a race issue we are not addressing."
The CBC Twitter account took a slightly different tack:
@RepJeffries "It's not a white problem, or a black problem, it's an American problem"
— THE CBC (@OfficialCBC) December 2, 2014