I want everybody to repeat after me, alright? My name is Dejaun Wright. A sophomore psychology major, political science minor from Morehouse College. Again, we must reiterate, “Justice for who?” [Crowd responds: “Breonna Taylor!”]
So, I’m here as a student of Morehouse College to talk about the injustice that occurred a few weeks ago by Atlanta City Police against two students: one from Spelman, one from Morehouse. I want you to repeat their names after me: “Messiah Young.” “Taniyah Pilgrim.” “Messiah Young.” “Taniyah Pilgrim.” On the night of May 29th, two AUC [Atlanta University Center] students, Taniyah Pilgrim from Spelman and Messiah Young from Morehouse, were ambushed by Atlanta City Police. That ain’t right.
These two students were driving peacefully and peacefully protesting through the city of Atlanta. Say that ain’t right. Five, count ‘em, five officers, five Atlanta City Police officers on live television charged into their car, dragged out and arrested Taniyah Pilgrim, and on the driver’s side broke into Messiah Young’s window and dragged him out, and tazed him too. That ain’t right. In the process they broke the driver’s window, slashed their tires, and brutalized two students. Let me reiterate, Messiah Young was tasered. Messiah Young later suffered a seizure afterwards. It took the city of Atlanta four days, four days, for them to fire only two out of the five officers. The rest are still on the Atlanta City Police force. The rest are on desk duty. We need to fire those police officers.
Say it after me, “Fire those police officers!”
What happened to Taniyah, what happened to Messiah, what happened to Breonna, what happened to George, what happened to Trayvon Martin, Martin Luther King, all of them, is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable. It’s not right.
But, I want to talk about an issue a little bit closer to home, something that happened just this week. I want to address what happened at the MET Foodmarket on Sunday. For those unaware, last Sunday at MET Foodmarket on Nostrand Avenue, between Sterling Place and St. John’s, a brother named Jayson Rayford was allegedly caught shoplifting. Allegedly.
As a way of handling that, a racist security guard who has been reported to have a history of excessive violence, grabbed brother Jayson and held him in a choke hold for over two minutes. That ain’t right. The owner of the store, a Palestinian man, adds to the brute force, and steps on and tries to restrain Jayson. That ain’t right.
Meanwhile, meanwhile, the store owner continuously screams at the angry witnesses, “I don’t see color!” As a result, brother Jayson was arrested and charged, while the very violent security guard was not. That ain’t right. When addressing the incident, the MET Foodmarket made no mention of firing the racist security guard. Instead the focus of the statement was more on the idea that brother Jayson was a “repeat shoplifter.” That ain’t right. That ain’t right.
Now, a little bit about me. I’m a Muslim man, I believe in the One God, the true God to me. And Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in the Quran, he commands us to “Stand firm for justice, even if it goes against yourself,” (Surah 4, ayat 135). Our Prophet, Peace and Blessing Be Upon Him, advised us that if you see an injustice, correct it with your hands. If not with your hands, then with your mouth. And if not with your mouth, then your heart.
Shoplifting does not, I repeat, does not justify a chokehold of a brother for over two minutes! Shoplifting does not give you the right to potentially take a life, or inhibit one. To my Palestinian brother, that was injustice. You, my Palestinian brother wherever you are, are no better than these racist police.
To the racist police officers who arrested brother Rayford without arresting the racist and violent security guard, you are the reason we need to defund the police. To the racist security guard who brutalized brother Rayford, again, you are the reason why we need to defund the police. To our Palestinian brother, who added to that injustice, you are the reason why we need to defund the police.
To the officers who brutalized Taniyah, Messiah, Breonna, George…. We need to defund the police! Within our own communities, within our neighborhoods, communities we built, where our families have lived for centuries, where we raised our families, we are constantly being terrorized at the hands of police. If it’s not us being killed, it’s us being beaten. If it’s not us being beaten, it’s us being brutalized.
If it’s not us being brutalized, it’s that we’re being watched, we’re being stalked in our own neighborhoods, that we built with our hands. For too long, for too long, for too long, it has been this way. We need change, family. We need change. Right now, right now is the time. Say it after me, “Right now is the time!”
Right now is the time to defund the police! My brothers, my sisters, my fellow humans, I urge everyone to follow the command of our Prophet Muhammad. Justice is not only achievable by protest. If we want justice, vote. Again, if we want justice, we vote. Local elections matter, too. If we want justice, boycott. If we want justice… for Jayson, for Taniyah, for Messiah, for George, get involved! Our time is not when someone dies, but ALL THE TIME!
Justice for Taniyah! Justice for Messiah! Justice for Jason! Justice for Breonna! Defund the police!