On Monday, Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson spoke with Katie Couric to address the response to the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, his arrest during the Baton Rouge protest, and the future of the movement.
The Baton Rouge Protest
When asked to describe the Baton Rouge protest that resulted in the arrest of over 140 people, Mckesson called it a “true example of peaceful protest.”
According to Mckesson, the conflict stemmed from the 200 police officers overseeing the protest. “The officers began to force protesters away from the barricade, and then began to engage in snatch and grabs … just assaulting protesters,” he said.
Mckesson’s arrest at the protest made headlines over the weekend, while #FreeDeRay trended on Twitter until his release 17 hours later. McKesson shared that he had actually just been notified that he was free to leave the state of Louisiana minutes before he began the interview.
While the Baton Rouge police department maintains that Mckesson was arrested for resisting orders to stay off of a major thoroughfare, Mckesson said that “they weren’t telling the truth.”
“There were people they arrested who were in the grass, but they said they were in the street, and, again, these are clear intimidation tactics,” he said. “There is no group of citizens, and certainly not public servants, who should be able to operate outside the confines of the law. And what we see in police is that are allowed to act in communities and inflict trauma on people with almost no accountability and no oversight.”
“The police killed nearly three people every day in 2016, and the police killed somebody every day but 18 days in 2015, and in every state,” Mckesson continued. “We can live in a world where police don’t kill people.”
On the Political Process
DeRay told Couric that politicians should “talk about the concrete things they could do.”
“Obama could sign an executive order, or do other action[s] to implement a national use of force standard at the federal level that I think would have demonstrable impact both there and with local police departments,” Mckesson said. “And I’m hopeful he will do that before he leaves.”
McKesson had warm words for the Democratic party’s new policy platform, calling it “much more progressive than anyone would have imagined a year ago.”
“It’s clear about the need for a national use of force policy,” Mckesson continued. “And the conversation about race, racial inequity, racial wealth gap, that is all present in a way we have not seen before. I think that’s really powerful, and I also think that is also a result of sustained protest over the past 20 months.”
When asked about the possibility of a Trump campaign, Mckesson did not hold back.
“Trump continues to demonstrate a deep misunderstanding or willful ignorance around race,” he said. “His candidacy, both in a metaphorical sense and certainly in a visceral sense, provides a cover for bigotry and racism that is intolerable, and has no place when we think about American politics. If he is the next president, I think we all have much to worry about.”
“When I think about what comes next in the movement space, it will be two things, I believe,” Mckesson told Couric. “One is the ability to build coalitions—can we create entrances for people into the movement who might not have the same goals and have the same outcomes? And then, can we be as organized on the inside as we are on the outside?”
When asked by Couric if he was discouraged by the slow pace at which policing reform policy has been implemented, Mckesson replied that he is “mindful that change is slow.”
“We won’t undue 400 years of oppression in 400 days,” Mckesson said. “This work takes strategy and a plan that is more of a marathon than a sprint.”
“I’m not discouraged, I am hopeful. I know that change is slow, and the police have to come to table and own their part in the solution in a way that they clearly have not to date.”