If faced with a recalcitrant county prosecutor who is obviously more concerned with exercising control and displaying power than creating transparency in the service of justice, what would Dr. King do?
That should be the guiding question we ask ourselves as we confront the troubling — and potentially dangerous — situation that could potentially be created by the eventual adjudication of the Tamir Rice killing case.
Prosecutor Tim McGinty has painted himself into a corner. He has interjected his overbearing and combative personality into the Grand Jury proceedings of this case — and the media attention surrounding them — to the extent that no decision by him can possibly be viewed as unbiased. It’s simply not possible. He has been far too inflammatory.
If Tim Loehmann, the cop who fired the fatal shots into Tamir’s body is (by some miracle) indicted, the prosecutor has already all but flatly stated that he thinks no crime was committed. So how can he, in good conscience, fairly present a strong case and press for a conviction in front of a trial jury? And if Loehmann isn’t indicted — which is far more likely going to be the case — all hell could break loose due to McGinty’s mishandling.
By his irrational and brutal behavior, McGinty seems to be intent on setting the stage for a riot in Cleveland, I guess so he can then position himself as a hero to other stiff-necked prosecutors around the country: A staunch defender of the right — but in this case, the wrong.
So, handing the case off to an independent prosecutor — which would calm and defuse the situation — is not something McGinty is going to do, at least not without overwhelming pressure being applied. But who can provide such pressure?
Even if thousands of members of the Black Lives Matter movement from across the country were to converge on Cleveland in protest of this gross unfairness, they will be dismissed by law enforcement — and indeed by most of the conservative media in the country — as rabble rousers, troublemakers, instigators and outside agitators.
No, there’s only one group with the stature, the gravitas and the power to prevent what possibly will become a tragedy — and indeed a travesty — of immense proportions; only one group that can force McGinty to step down: the local clergy. Only the power of the church can match and overcome the wrongheaded power of the state in this case.
Since no other group can accomplish the task, it falls to our religious leaders by default to save our community by using their immense power to force McGinty to do the right thing. These men and women leaders of the faith-based community have to come together ask themselves: “What would Dr. King do?”
When faced with someone so adversarial, so stubborn and so dangerous as Tim McGinty, the only solution perhaps is — in the tradition of Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and yes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — to engage in peaceful civil disobedience. “What would Dr. King do?”
The only citizens of the Greater Cleveland community that can successfully lead acts of peaceful civil disobedience are the clergymen and women that have so far been roundly criticizing the prosecutor, but from afar. And yes, they would have to be willing to go jail for their beliefs if necessary. But, “What would Dr. King do?”
And these pastors, ministers, bishops, priests, rabbis and imams would all have to call on the members of their congregations to follow their lead, to fill — overwhelm — the jails with the bodies of Greater Clevelanders of all races and from all walks of life: people of strong conviction.
Only this kind of bold activism can successfully focus the requisite amount of national media attention on the situation, and a sustained effort would — have no doubt about this — force McGinty to step aside in the interest of justice. So, again, they have to ask themselves, “What would Dr. King do?”
And the minute the first wave of men and women of the cloth are arrested, I’ll proudly be in the forefront of the second wave to follow them into the bowels of the beast, and am willing to peacefully keep going back to jail with them again and again, for as long as it takes to secure justice. “What would Dr. King do?”
“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.” — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
But alas, McGinty probably need not worry: If the past is any indication, the local clergy will stick to only holding press conferences where they poke holes of righteous indignation in the air with their fingers, but do little else. But that’s not what Dr. King would do. If there is violent unrest at the conclusion of this farce parading as justice, the fault should be laid squarely where it belongs: On the doorstep of an inactive church community.
From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.