Group of black lawyers in Charlotte issues a call to action, demands police reform

Group of black lawyers in Charlotte issues a call to action, demands police reform
Attorney Fatina Lorick speaks to participants at “A Day To Stand In Solidarity,” an event hosted by the John S. Leary Bar Association of Black Attorneys. (Source: DONOVAN THOMAS)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Charlotte Observer) - Outside of the Mecklenburg County Government Center, a crowd gathered in remembrance of George Floyd and the many other lives that have been lost to police brutality and racial profiling.

Signs read “Black Lawyers 4 Justice,” “Black Lawyers For Everything Black” and other messages.

The group was led by the John S. Leary Bar Association of Black Attorneys, an affiliate of the North Carolina Association of Black Attorneys that is named after the first black lawyer to practice law in Mecklenburg County.

The event, named “A Day To Stand In Solidarity,” was one of a number of actions the Leary Association plans to take in response to police brutality and racial profiling.

“We believe in the right of the people to exercise their constitutional rights to assemble, of free speech and to protest the actions of its government,” said Fatina Lorick, an executive officer of the John S. Leary Association and managing attorney at The Lorick Law Office.

“The sad and horrific tragedy which has galvanized protests and outcries throughout this country and world is but one instance throughout this country of fatal acts of brutality and excessive force which have resulted in deaths of far too many African-American men and women.”

Lorick delivered a call to action created by the John S. Leary Association in light of the recent deaths of George Floyd and others at the hands of police or racially motivated vigilantes.

The address petitioned the community to look to each other in addition to local officials to bring about change.

Some of the demands listed in the call to action included a review and change of policies and regulations at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in regards to racial profiling, harassment and excessive use of force; an improved vetting process for hiring officers; the demilitarization of CMP; and the reevaluation of qualified immunity and confidential personnel filing laws.

“We demand the end of racial profiling. We demand accountability,” Lorick said.

The attorneys of the Leary Association plan to continue to communicate their concerns to city officials and state legislators, seeking their support for justice reform.

Pro bono representation of protesters unjustly arrested while peacefully protesting will also be provided by attorneys affiliated with the Leary Association.

Brian and Morgan Cromwell attended the event with their two children, Alexis and Parks.

“We have a very diverse family. It’s important that everyone understands that racism will not be tolerated. Not by us, and it shouldn’t be tolerated at the highest levels of the government, but unfortunately it is. If you spend two seconds watching that video of George Floyd, you realize racism is alive and well,” Cromwell said .

The multiracial family also expressed their support for current actions being taken against racial inequality and injustice and their hope that individuals will begin to educate themselves and reexamine their belief systems.

Chiege Kalu Okwara, a practicing criminal and juvenile attorney, recounted to the Observer her experience working pro bono after the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott and expressed why it was important for her to attend the event.

“I have two sons who I worry about who have been subject to racial profiling and so have I. If we are educated and have resources and it can happen to us, what about people who don’t have anything? Who don’t have their voice or representation,” Kalu Okwara said.

She emphasized her hope that George Floyd’s will be the last life lost to police brutality.

“Black people shouldn’t be here for over 400 years and still feel like less than a person. This has to stop. It’s awful. We will do what is in our power to make sure it stops and hold people accountable for what they do.”