Justice For All Responds to African American Shootings and Attack on Law Enforcement


For Immediate Release

Montpelier, Vermont, July 8, 2016 –Justice for all, a racial justice nonprofit in central Vermont today released a statement on the recent deaths of two African Americans at the hands of law enforcement. They also provided some comments on the murders of five Dallas, Texas law enforcement officers and wounding of an additional seven. Allyson Sironi Co-founder of Justice For All said in a statement “It deeply saddens and troubles us at Justice For All that we again must mourn the deaths of African American men at the hands of those who have sworn to serve and protect them. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the Baton Rouge and Saint Paul Communities. Officers Howie Lake II, Blane Salamoni and Jeronimo Yanez and their respective departments, families and friends have a heavy burden to bear and our thoughts and prayers are with them as well.”

These latest manifestations of the racial disparities in our criminal justice system have left the nation with a sense of hopelessness and outrage resulting in the heinous attack on Dallas Police. Mark Hughes, Co-founder of Justice For All commented, “We offer condolences to the families and friends of officers Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa (and three yet to be named). We wish a speedy recovery to Omar Cannon, Misty McBride, Jesus Retana (and four yet to be named) and lift up the entire Dallas community. We hope the best for the family and friends of Michael Johnson, as they try to find meaning for his actions and struggle with their loss. “

Today Justice For All put forward a number of steps that they believe should be taken to address the issue preemptively in Vermont “In light of severity and trajectory of this national crisis we recommend that a number of steps be taken immediately to keep us all safe in Vermont.” The list includes the a suggestion that the Criminal Justice Training Council expedite the delivery of Fair and Impartial Policing Training to all law enforcement throughout the state. “The current plan to complete this training by 2019 is unacceptable”, Sironi said.

Justice For All also suggested that, as with other professions, that law enforcement be placed under the oversight of the Office of Professional Regulation in Vermont. Recent reports on Vermont State Police race traffic stops, and the Sentencing Project Report reveal empirical data indicating that the problem is worsening with racial disparities and that Vermont is among the most severe in the nation! Hughes commented, “It is time that our law enforcement stops overseeing themselves.” A policy and training for Fairness and Impartiality for all Vermont justice employees was next on the list as Hughes commented, “This is a system problem, not a police problem” Finally, Justice For All encouraged legislators to lead this effort with a show of commitment by placing the important issues of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and legislative impact assessments on the summer agenda in Joint Legislative Justice Oversight.

These recent events in Baton Rouge, St Paul and Dallas illustrate disparity, decisions informed by biases, fear, distrust, murder and outrage. The existing landscape makes it imperative that we in Vermont take immediate action on racial disparities in Vermont’s criminal justice system.  “This is not one that we are going to be able to wait out”, Sironi said.


About Justice For All

Justice for All is a Vermont-based, racial justice non-profit organization that identifies and dismantles institutionalized racism and facilitates healing and empowerment in Vermont communities. They ensure justice for all through community organizing, research, education, community policing, legislative reform and judicial monitoring. To this end they address systemic issues such as racially biased policing and racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Contact Information

Mark Hughes Cofounder

Co-founder, Justice For All

o: (802)532-3030



Suspect identified in sniper-style attack that killed 5 Dallas officers – The Boston Globe

It brings us great sadness to learn of the law enforcement officers in Dallas being senselessly wounded and murdered.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families affected and the entire community.


Gunfire rang out during a protest over two recent fatal police shootings of black men, killing five officers and wounding seven others.

Source: Suspect identified in sniper-style attack that killed 5 Dallas officers – The Boston Globe

Philando Castile – Killed at The Hands of Those Sworn to Protect

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Phlando Castile’s family and friends and the entire community. It is our hope that justice will be served and that on a national as well as state and local levels, serious attention be given to the  racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Woman streams aftermath of fatal officer-involved shooting

By Eliott C. McLaughlin and Joshua Berlinger, CNN

Updated 12:08 PM ET, Thu July 7, 2016
Woman streams graphic video of boyfriend shot by police

Woman says police said taillight was busted, yet it wasn’t
“I wanted everybody in the world to see what the police do,” she says

(CNN)As Philando Castile’s head slumps backward while he lies dying next to her, Diamond Reynolds looks directly into the camera and explains that a Minnesota police officer just shot her fiancé four times.
The nation is, by now, accustomed to grainy cell phone videos of officer-involved shootings, but this footage from Falcon Heights, outside Minneapolis, is something different, more visceral: a woman live-streaming a shooting’s aftermath with the police officer a few feet away, his gun still trained on her bloody fiancé.

“He let the officer know that he had a firearm and he was reaching for his wallet and the officer just shot him in his arm,” Reynolds said as she broadcast the Wednesday evening shooting on Facebook.
Castile, an African-American, had been pulled over for a busted taillight, Reynolds explained. He told the officer he was armed and had a concealed carry permit, she said. Her daughter, 4, is in the back seat.

As she speaks, Castile’s wrists are crossed. Blood covers the bottom of his white T-shirt sleeve and a large area around his sternum and left rib cage. Perhaps in shock or agony, he peers emptily upward.

‘You shot four bullets into him, sir’
Though you can’t see the St. Anthony police officer’s face, you can hear the agitation in his voice as he tells Reynolds to keep her hands where he can see them.  Composed, as she remains through much of the video, Reynolds replies, “I will, sir, no worries. I will.”  The officer still sounds distressed as he explains, “I told him not to reach for it. I told him to get his hand off it.  Moments later, Reynolds pleads with God and then the officer as she realizes Castile won’t likely make it.  “Please don’t tell me this, Lord. Please, Jesus, don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please don’t tell me that he’s gone,” she said. “Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him. You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”  She continues pleading outside the car as officers approach her with guns drawn. One orders her to her knees, and the phone begin filming the sky,  “Please Jesus, no. Please no. Please no, don’t let him be gone,” she says before officers place Reynolds and her daughter in the back of the police car.

Later, at Hennepin County Medical Center, her fears were confirmed: Her 32-year-old fiancee was gone.
‘Devastated’ Clarence Castile, Philando Castile’s uncle, told CNN that the family is devastated.
“We all know my nephew was a good kid, and we want justice as well as relief,” he said.  The images of his nephew dying were the “most horrific thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Castile said Thursday morning on CNN’s “New Day.”  He and Valerie Castile, Philando’s mother, stressed on “New Day” that Philando was law-abiding and a good person, and they expressed bitterness over the actions of the police.
“He’s not an officer,” Clarence Castille said. “He’s just a man. An officer is supposed to protect and serve. That was a man who did that. That man is a destroyer, and he came into our lives and (has) done something and took something from us.”
‘Black in the wrong place’

Castile said that Philando was a kitchen supervisor for the St. Paul School District. The last time the two spoke was in May. They talked about setting up a nest egg for Philando’s eventual retirement.
“My nephew has a (concealed carry) permit, and still got killed for carrying a gun. … This needs to stop. This happens so often.” Valerie Castile said “they took a very good person” and wondered whether he was simply “black in the wrong place.” “Everybody that knows my son knows that he is a laid back, quiet individual that works hard every day, pays taxes and comes home and plays video games. That’s it,” she said. “He’s not a gang banger. He’s not a thug. He’s very respectable. And I know he didn’t antagonize that officer in any way to make him feel like his life was threatened.” She said she stressed to her son that if he ever had an encounter with police, he should “comply, comply, comply.”

She said that when he got to a hospital to see her son, he was already dead. “They didn’t let me see my son’s body.”  The mother said she hears people saying that police no longer racially profile people. She disagrees. “We’re … hunted every day. It’s a sign of war against African-American people as a whole,” she said.
An ongoing investigation
Sgt. Jon Mangseth, interim chief of the St. Anthony police, said two officers were present when the shooting occurred — a primary officer, who he believes has more than five years of experience, and a backup officer. Having both is standard procedure for the department, which has jurisdiction over Falcon Heights. St. Anthony police don’t have body cameras, according to office manager Kim Brazil.
One officer has been placed on standard paid administrative leave, Mangseth said at a short news conference early Thursday. No police were injured.

Mangseth said he hadn’t seen the video, but he knows about it. The nearly 10-minute video garnered more than 1 million views before it was pulled from Facebook. It was then re-released on the social media platform with a graphic warning. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Assistance is investigating the shooting, Mangseth said. “We will release the information as we learn it, and we will address concerns as we are faced with them,” he said.  Poll: 1 in 5 African-Americans report ‘unfair’ dealings with police in last month Protests erupts, feds monitoring Mangseth told reporters it’s the first officer-involved shooting in the area in more than 30 years.

“It’s shocking,” he said. “It’s not something that occurs in this area often.” The shooting came day after an officer-involved shooting was filmed by bystanders in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Alton Sterling, 37, died, sparking mourning and outrage across the country. By early Thursday, protesters had begun to gather outside Minnesota Governor’s Residence. The U.S. Justice Department released a statement saying it “is aware of the incident and is assessing the situation.”

Alton Sterling Shooting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 A video showing a deadly encounter outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has sparked outrage. Police officers pin down Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, then one shoots him as he lies on the ground.

Source: Alton Sterling shooting: 2nd video of encounter emerges – CNN.com

It saddens us to see yet another senseless killing of an African American man, again at the hands of those sworn to protect him.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Alton Sterling’s family and friends and all who are affected and our hope is for justice, understanding that without justice there can be no peace.




We Need The Other Political Revolution: Racial Disparities In The Vermont Criminal Justice System


Senator Bernie Sanders, Racial Justice Activist and Co-founder of Justice For All, Mark Hughes and Vermont Delegate to the Democratic National Convention, Ken Dean

Mark Hughes & Ashley Nellis: Racial disparities in state prisons

Editor’s note: This commentary is by Mark Hughes, who is an advocate for racial justice affiliated with Justice For All in Vermont, and Ashley Nellis, a senior researcher for The Sentencing Project in Washington, D.C., and author of “The Color of Justice: Racial and Ethnic Disparity in State Prisons.”

A new report on racial disparities in state prisons underscores the need for policymakers and state administrators in Montpelier to take a hard look at the policies, practices and prejudices that are playing out in our state’s criminal justice system.

By disaggregating and analyzing U.S. Justice Department data the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization The Sentencing Project found that nationally, African-Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites across the nation. In Vermont the ratio is even higher at 10 times the rate of whites across the nation. In fact, Vermont is the highest in the nation with one in 14 of all African-American adult males in state prison.

The findings come in a period when many states, including Vermont, have responded to assertions of unfairness in the justice system in the aftermath of the highly reported Trayvon Martin shooting four years ago in Florida and the shooting and racial protests in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere more recently.

Policymakers and administrators in Vermont are aware of the disparities. Several states have legislated sentencing reforms or recategorized drug cases in particular, which account for many of the convictions that lead to racial and ethnic disparities, so that possession and use of drugs is more likely today to lead to treatment rather than extended imprisonment. State officials know that in the aggregate African-Americans are not disproportionately likely to commit certain drug crimes, but they nevertheless are more likely to wind up in prison where whites convicted of similar offenses may get alternative outcomes.

One of many practices that contribute to racial disparities in the criminal justice system in Vermont is the disproportionate number of traffic stops and searches of African-Americans by law enforcement. The Vermont Advisory Committee to United States Commission on Civil Rights provided a briefing on the challenges of racial profiling in 2009. Some of the recommendations have yet to be undertaken. Traffic stop data analysis in 2012 concluded that African-Americans were being stopped and searched at disproportionate rates by Vermont State (VSP), Burlington, South Burlington, UVM and Winooski police departments. In spite of a legislative mandate to collect race-based traffic stop data issued in 2012, this data is only beginning to become publicly accessible in 2016. VSP’s initial decision (in 2012) to release their data to third parties for analysis created discussion surrounding research veracity and efficacy and did little to provide true transparency or adopt the research as a benchmark from which to move forward. This year (with VSP’s long awaited release of five years of data), VSP released the data to Northeastern University and UVM as well as posted the raw data on their site. Based upon research produced by Dr. Jack McDevitt of Northeastern University, traffic stop racial disparities have increased in Vermont over the past five years. This is clearly as a result of the lack of transparency and a culture of denial. Dr. Stephanie Seguino’s (UVM) report on this data set was released last week.

In moving forward it is important that we move past using the collection of data to prove (or disprove) racial disparity, to that of using it to measure our progress towards parity. The consistent public release of the data will provide the transparency required for accountability in this area. Internal commitment to progress, analysis of this data, policy implementation, training and corrective actions (as required) will also be necessary to move these efforts forward. It is also important that we understand that this is a very small part of a much larger challenge.

In general, the national report suggests that while overt racism may not continually come into play in the criminal justice system, there are points of discretion in the system where arresting officers, prosecutors, judges and even defense attorneys may be predisposed to view one group differently from another. Policy makers in Vermont must work to achieve the transparency required to identify these points of discretion in the system and demand similar commitment to metrics, policy, training and corrective actions as required to ensure that Vermont lives up to its narrative of openness and fairness.

Concerns about differential treatment is important not only because every American is constitutionally entitled to fair and equal treatment under the law, but because of the collateral consequences that are attached to criminal convictions – reduced access to housing, education and employment opportunity chief among them.

There is a growing recognition across the country that mass incarceration practices have not contributed to public safety, but have instead created a system that is inefficient, unsustainable, and unfair. Mass incarceration has perpetuated disadvantages that African-Americans and other people of color have endured historically. Solving foundational problems through improved access to education, decent housing, prevention services focused on at-risk youth, and job training and placement is continually challenging but important.

But equally crucial, and probably more immediately manageable, is the identification and remediation of the policies and behaviors that lead to over-incarceration and racial disparities in prison in Vermont and elsewhere. State officials must fashion reforms that make the justice system smarter, fairer and less costly both in dollars and in the loss of human potential. We owe it to ourselves in this political, social and racial climate of change in 2016.