The head of the Georgia chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to promote nonviolent social change, on Tuesday advocated African-American families “exercise their Second Amendment rights” in response to recent police shootings of unarmed black men.
“You stand there, (police) shoot. You run, they shoot. We’re going to have to take a different tack,” Samuel Mosteller, longtime president of the Georgia SCLC, told reporters.
The remarks came one week after 23-year-old Goodyear employee Nicholas Thomas was fatally shot by Smyrna police serving an arrest warrant on a probation violation. Police say Thomas tried to run them over in a customer’s Maserati, though lawyers hired by the dead man’s family have challenged the official account.
Earlier this month 27-year-old Anthony Hill, who suffered from bipolar disorder, was shot and killed by a DeKalb County police officer who alleged the Afghanistan war veteran charged him in a threatening manner. Hill was nude and unarmed at the time.
“Nobody is protecting the black community,” Mosteller said.
Janice Mathis, a lawyer with Rainbow PUSH who appeared alongside Mosteller, distanced herself from the SCLC director’s comments.
“Arming the black community is not Rainbow PUSH’s position,” she said.
Ironically, the SCLC’s lack of militancy was often criticized by younger activists who came of age in the 1960s. King, aided by civil rights icons including Joseph Lowery, Ralph Abernathy and Bayard Rustin, started the SCLC in 1957 to coordinate nonviolent direct action to hasten the desegregation of public accommodations throughout the South.
Mosteller also announced plans to organize recalls of the sheriffs of any county where an unarmed African-American is shot by police.
Activists plan a vigil for Thomas Tuesday evening at Smyrna City Hall.
Return for updates.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.