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Ferguson activists outline broad platform to combat police violence

Leaders behind the civil rights movement to end police violence against communities of color on Friday outlined their most comprehensive strategy yet.

Leaders behind the civil rights movement to end police violence against communities of color on Friday outlined their most comprehensive strategy yet to influence policy through all levels of government.

The policy roadmap, called Campaign Zero, was formed by activists who rose to national prominence in the wake of protests over Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer last year.

The unified call for nationwide action outlines 10 major demands, ranging from overhauling police tactics and policies to engaging the community and ensuring institutional oversight. On top of the list, organizers take aim at the controversial "broken windows" strategy and use-of-force standards adopted by major police departments across the country. They also call for additional resources for body cameras and increased training for officers, while also adding a layer of accountability through community oversight and external investigations. 

“We can live in a world where the police don’t kill people by limiting police interventions, improving community interactions, and ensuring accountability,” the organizers state on the Campaign Zero website.

Related: Protests erupt after St. Louis cops fatally shoot Mansur Ball-Bey

“This is not a wild proposition. But part of the reason why we’re saying this is because envisioning a world where no people are killed by police is almost ludicrous to people,” said Sam Sinyangwe, an activist and data analyst behind the website. “It’s not wild though. It’s a totally tangible dream.”

The policy prescription rollout comes as leaders in the nationwide Black Lives Matter movement have gained political clout by injecting their message -- at times by force -- into the 2016 presidential debate.

Activists have disrupted events featuring Democratic presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. They have met privately with frontrunner candidate Hillary Clinton. Their message has reached the most powerful voices in the federal government, spanning from the Oval Office to the Department of Justice.

Sinyangwe said it is no coincidence that activists have already seen presidential candidates adjust their language and platforms on civil rights. Each candidates' stance on the 10 categories of reform are mapped out on the website, allowing users to compare presidential contenders with how they stack up on the issues. 

Organizers plan to update the website in real time to reflect policy changes, while affiliated organizations and activists within the movement are encouraged to submit additional demands for reform on the local, state and federal levels. In the future, Sinyangwe sees the organization taking the message beyond police violence to include calls for criminal justice reform and address the institutional problems that have compounded police violence. 

Related: The dystopian danger of police body cameras

Data analysis plays a significant role in Campaign Zero’s advocacy, filling a void where national statistics do not exist to track police violence. The activists map the number of black people killed by police in the last year, breaking down crowd-sourced data by geographic region.

“It’s to present the facts about police killings and to help folks unpack the information in a way that’s really digestible,” Sinyangwe said.

The campaign expands the roles of organizers as they balance promoting the national platform while also handling advocacy on the ground in their hometowns. Just this week, protests broke out once again in the St. Louis region after police there shot and killed an 18-year-old who they say was pointing a gun at officers who were serving a warrant. Police used tear gas to break up the crowd on a night that a building and car were set on fire.

The autopsy report released late Thursday found that 18-year-old Mansur Bal-Bey died from a single gunshot to his back. Police Chief Sam Dotson said the location of the fatal gun wound did not definitively mean the officers fired on the teen as he fled.

“Just because he was shot in the back doesn’t mean he was running away,” he said. “It could be, and I’m not saying that it doesn’t mean that. I just don’t know yet.”