Arrested For Being Black: Racism In America’s Justice System | AJ+

By now, you know Michael Brown’s story. Hands up. Don’t shoot. For Black Americans, this is just reality. It feels like it takes no time for you to get pulled over by the police, but we couldn’t cover his body or get him out of the street for four hours. That type of trauma, it really seeps into the soil of a community. The thing about Ferguson you have to remember is people weren’t just protesting the death of an unarmed Black teen. People were protesting revenue-generating policing and the resurgence of the modern-day debtors’ prison to make people poor and keep people poor. Who are we? Mike Brown. Who are we? Mike Brown. Days of protests turned into weeks. Weeks into months. Prominent voices became leaders. And leaders took charge of a movement. This country has always devalued Black bodies; has never seen Black people as worthy of protection or their rights. If you look around today, those same protesters are still on the ground, reimagining what justice should look like. Cash bail is the driver of this institution, and it’s punishing people strictly for their poverty. Mike Brown, and the work that we’re doing right now is a continuation of the fight that he had in the middle of that street when he was literally fighting for his life. In this new vision of St. Louis, Missouri, elected officials answer to them. We’re not gonna stop. Every single tool that has literally oppressed communities just like this? We on the attack. I think what was very different about Mike was that everyone understood the interaction. You walk down a street. You’re coming home from a store. You’re hanging out with your friends. And the police pulls up. The conclusion of that interaction was far beyond what anyone thought possible. Kayla read is the co-director of Action St. Louis and one of the leading voices for justice reform in the city. I was a pharmacy technician that went out because she couldn’t believe what happened and five years later, I lead an organization that is building authentic power in St. Louis. Ferguson is a community that really speaks to a lot of the racialized history in a lot of cities like St. Louis. So pulling people over became the standard. Then Black people became something that you could exploit for money. A year after Michael Brown was killed, the U.S. Department of Justice released the Ferguson report. It found that Black residents were far more likely than white to be arrested and charged for minor traffic violations and petty citations. These are things like: speeding, running a traffic stop, broken taillights, expired registration, suspicion. If you have to choose between paying your rent or paying fines on a ticket, you’re gonna pay your rent. People were getting six and seven tickets per stop. And if they weren’t able to go to court and pay those fines, those fines will turn into warrants. And then when they were being pulled over they were not only being issued tickets, they were being arrested for previous tickets and then being jailed. And families having to pay to bail their loved ones out of jail for municipal tickets. Ferguson, in these direct and systemic, abusive practices, was making millions of dollars off the backs of poor people and people of color. Those who are most victimized by the current systems have known for a very long time the truth of how these things operate. Z Gorley and Blake Strode are part of ArchCity Defenders, a civil rights law firm that’s suing St. Louis over its unfair bail practices. This was never about public safety. It’s about making people poor and keeping people poor. A quick refresher: In Episode 1 of this series we explained how the bail system works. But if you can’t afford it, you stay in jail, even if you’re innocent. We are more likely to be pulled over. We are more likely to be ticketed. We are more likely to be arrested. We are more likely to be convicted. We are more likely to be sentenced to death. That’s across space and place. In St. Louis, Black residents are twice as likely to be arrested as white residents. And what’s more, the amounts they have to pay in bail are completely unaffordable for the average resident. $500, $1,000, $5,000. In communities where families are one check away from devastation, and we know that to be the case for most Americans, bail is devastation. People are sitting in jail for days and weeks for $150 or $300. Then you lose your job. And you lose your job, you can’t pay your rent. You can’t pay your rent, you get evicted. You get evicted, you’re forced into subpar living conditions. Your children are having to bounce from school district to school district. And it creates devastating impacts on Black people in this region. What we wanted to do was say that this is your table, your community, you have agency, you have joy. Mike Milton runs the St. Louis chapter of The Bail Project. It’s part of a nationwide effort to bail people out of jail who can’t afford it. Cash bail is absolutely unnecessary. And The Bail Project in St. Louis has proven it. 90 percent of the time, people who they’ve bailed out return to court. So, we’re headed to the bank now to get cashier’s checks for the clients we’re posting for today. What we’re able to do is provide some of that aid so that people can actually fight their case from the best position possible. I’ve gotten locked up for not having money to pay for these fines and fees. Me and my mom were driving to work and we got pulled over. And both of us had warrants. Both of us got locked up. Both of us was in a cell next to each other. And we both lost our jobs at that time. It’s about literal generations of poverty being attacked because people cannot afford their freedom. That’s why in St. Louis they’re not just trying to end cash bail. We want to close this facility. This is Montague Simmons. He’s a social justice advocate who’s been fighting for decades to shut down the St. Louis Medium Security Institution. Better known as the Workhouse. It was first established as a literal workhouse. Folks were taken there, especially when they had debts, to break limestone. They would actually work off their debt. Over 95 percent of the people held in the Workhouse are here in pretrial detention. We all know someone who’s been in the Workhouse. We all know someone who’s been impacted by bail. Over 90 percent of the people held in the Workhouse are Black, despite the fact that less than half the population of St. Louis is Black. There’s a huge segment of our community that’s literally being kept in cages and we want to see them set free. Bail is a perfect example of the kind of everyday injustice, everyday oppression, that folks took to the streets in Ferguson to protest, to say: this isn’t just some accidental tragedy that’s happened. There’s actually a scheme afoot to privilege some and disadvantage others. And the courts are starting to agree. In June 2019, a federal judge ordered the city of St. Louis to stop detaining people just because they couldn’t pay. The thing is, bail reform is a policy effort, but it’s also a political moment. Stunning political upset still making national headlines. This afternoon, St. Louis county prosecutor Bob McCulloch soundly defeated. Bob McCulloch was the prosecutor who refused to bring charges against the cop who killed Mike Brown. The answer in Ferguson when the officer wasn’t indicted for killing Mike Brown was that the prosecutor is an elected position. Just days into office, the winner, Wesley Bell, fired another veteran prosecutor in the Mike Brown case. We went through this political transformation where we understood that protest alone was not going to bring about the change. The thing you have to remember is: the criminal justice system in America is profoundly local. That means: You don’t need to wait for Congress. You don’t even need to wait for the Supreme Court. It turns out, change can happen as soon as people want it to. Or better, as soon as they vote for it. Judges have that power to make change in the bail system. In 2016, a lawsuit was filed against Harris County, Texas, that basically said the bail system is screwed up, and these are the people responsible for it. Judge Darryl Jordan was one of 16 judges named in the lawsuit. And he’s very clear on the problems with bail. We have people who could possibly lose their house, their car, their job, simply because they didn’t have the $200 or $300 to post money and go home. And so, Judge Jordan did something that most people named as unwitting defendants in a major lawsuit probably wouldn’t do. I agreed with it. I just told the truth about our practices as judges and basically what I thought needed to be changed. It’s important to note that, at the time, Judge Jordan had just been elected. So he wasn’t so much a part of the legacy of problematic bail as someone who really wanted to reform it. Two years go by, and nothing really changes. But then something big happened. Something really, really big. The 2018 elections. It was a sweeping decision 2018 win. 17 African American female judges won races for the first time. The other two kept their seats in Harris County. The Black girl magic campaign. Together, they made history and are about to make some big changes. Every single judge in Harris County Misdemeanor Court was voted out, except for Judge Jordan. And as for that Black girl magic? Six of those women are my colleagues now. Within 17 days of the new judges being on the bench, we had come up with a framework to settle the lawsuit. And just like that, cash bail in Harris County, Texas was – for the the most part – on its way out. But this is bigger than Harris County. Across the country, reformers want a smarter, more just pretrial release system. And it’s poised to be a major issue during the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. But a lot of folks in St. Louis and around the country believe that the real solution lies in how we approach the criminal justice system as a whole. We cannot depend on police and cages to create safety in our communities, because it has never created safety in communities that look like me. By going out and asking folks what they actually want in order to have safer communities, they talk about things like parks and better schools, and after-school programs, and mental health facilities and job training. We have the power to put stuff in place that is more loving and compassionate, and more of an investment into the poor folks in St. Louis. One of the really beautiful things about the struggle that grew out of Ferguson is that so many of those folks have stayed in the work and are really leading the work in inspiring ways. I think, five years later, the uprising is alive and well inside those of us who were in Ferguson, and continue to do the work. This year, we saw Mike Brown’s mother run for Ferguson City Council. The uprising is in her. I worked on her campaign. I talked to her every day. The uprising is in me. There are people nationally who are demanding police accountability in ways that we haven’t seen. Ever. The uprising lives in them. There are moments that stick with Mike, back on those nights when they were hitting the streets, demanding change. And I remember getting shot by rubber bullets. And I remember seeing the tanks coming down the street. And when I looked around and I saw all of these Black faces passionately crying out. I saw Kayla and Montague at the front leading us and giving us the language that we wanted to give that said this is our freedom and there is a war on Black people in St. Louis and there’s a war on Black people in America. And in order for us to love each other well, we have to fight for our freedom. And we can’t stop. And we gotta, we gotta go to war for him. And for his family. And for – every Black boy that wanna walk down the middle of the street again. Hey guys, this is Angie. That was our final episode in our series about bail in America. If you want to learn about how the bail system works, head back to our first episode. And if you’re interested in learning about how black women, in particular, are impacted check out episode two. Thanks for watching and don’t forget to like, share and subscribe to AJ+.

100 thoughts on “Arrested For Being Black: Racism In America’s Justice System | AJ+

    "Pray and pack" – Michael Baisden

  • Black people , the original of this planet, must stand up and Take their power back. Look away from without and look within .. it's there.

  • Don't you Know the system was set up this way!! America hates black people they want us Dead all these laws against us is in Congress! Nothing will change they will figure out another way to keep us Down!! This Hell on Earth!!!

  • All black people just dont spend no money in america this how you treat this people who kill us thay love money the stockmarkets going down use it on mr trump make america suffer for a change i say. Dont go to shops that are racist

  • Brown was a POS. Interesting they represent him as a typical black person in the US. He was a bully that needed to be put in his place.

  • Very Powerful Series….I had no Idea Ferguson Folks have been putting in all this Good Work….Very Inspiring….

  • Hi. I am an Arab such as you guys. In order to defeat racism, we should let our wives sleep with African men. We can be an example, fellow Arab men. Be on the right side of history

  • Powerful video. Well done. Been caught up in the ole poverty crime situation a few times in my life. What's a poverty crime? It's an infraction that turns into jail time just because you lack the money to pay a fine. Luckily for me I always avoided jail. But it easily could have turned out differently. Just like all those people at the "work house." Modern day debtor's prison. Even though debtor's prisons are supposed to be illegal under Federal Law since 1833 and were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1983. So much for respect for the law.

  • It's sad but Black are considered second-class citizens in US it is the same thing for the others minorities ! I seems to me American belongs to Native Americans and White people are so racists !

  • Its america. Its normal. If u wear turban police come. If u wear hijab police come. If u arab police come. If u bloace police come. If u speak other language police come… If jesus come police taze him because he look like syrian refugees and isis. If mother mary come wear the hijab. People pull the hijab and put her on bikini. What a stupid country. 4rd world country

  • Aj+ doesn't mention black lives matter which is a black supremacy group. Double standerd at his finest😂😂😂😂

  • Anybody with eyes and. common sense knows the police have always been the worst enemy of black people

  • if education and mental health were actually taken seriously and invested in now; it would pay off tremendously in the long run

  • Black people commit most of the crime in the usa and there is a rise of hate crimes done by blacks and black are likely to become more racist then any other race and I wonder Why isn't AJ+ talking about the rise of hate crimes done by blacks against jews

  • You can stop now. Everyone knows this is utter bullsh*t. african Americans are the most hateful, violent , racist people in usa today. Anyone who lives in major us cities knows this as fact.

  • They can buy 20 pairs of sneakers but can't pay a fine… Its no wonder why they stay in poverty.

  • I'm sorry you want to drive it is expensive. I know people of color get pulled over more frequent than whites I am a person of color .


  • Why is everyone happy blacks or hispanics make it as judges or lawyers?

    The system is still the same, built upon Roman laws. It will always be against you.

    How many of you still worshipping "white" Jesus?

  • American people need to know what humanity is.. Give Love respect like other country specially to your own people.. i am a pilipino and im sad for what im seen on what happen on america, pls Pray for Humanity

  • Simple the United States of America wasn’t built for blacks. It’s not rocket science. Blacks in America ere bought for cheap labour and to serve the whites. A black man can never be equal in a society That he has no authority in or has no power.

  • I'm from Africa and I lived in America considerable years. Black Americans oppresses each other more than anyone oppresses them. Their behavior is animal like. I never had problems from white Americans or Hispanic people. These cry babies always playing victims and race cards are the most hateful. They brought to themselves whatever. Look at them… fatherless bastards raised by prostitutes gang banging, soliciting drugs and munching on welfare. These parasites good for nothing I wouldn't want them in my Africa either

  • It's so sad how those who are in power treat those who have color. They think that better than everyone else.

  • Much respect and love to guys for this video because these situations are very prevalent even on the East Coast of America.


    why do it wrong if u can do it right?

  • I like the pic of Mike Brown. It's almost like he didn't reach for a cops gun while assaulting him.

  • Is sad even with what they've had been going through, they're racist to Mexicans. I've seeing myself with my own eyes. So if you want respect, you too respect others.

  • WS Amerikkka has played itself, how, they have oppressed their riches resource, US! instead of making the country strong, they have weakened the country by their racist standards, and now, the chickens have come home to roost, our rise as a nation WILL NOT STOP!!!!!

  • Take responsibility for your own actions & are they really complaining black people are being punished for committing a crime! Oh yeah that lady forgot most likely to commit serious crimes

  • Great video, protesting rarely ever works; the best way to fight the system is to learn how it works and use it to your advantage or use the system against itself.

  • Some Black Americans caring more about a tiny percentage of Black murders than the overall cause of Black murders. Over 90% of Black murders in the U.S. are Black people being shot & killed by other Black people. Black Police Officers are just as likely to kill a Black suspect as a White Police Officer. Blacks which are just 13% of the U.S. population have committed 52% of the homicides between 1980-2008.

  • damn this video is funny, yeah mike was just chilling coming back from the store the one he just robbed and then when approached by a cop he tries to take his gun, brown was a worthless shitbag who deserved what he got and here's a tip for all blacks dont sell drugs don't commit crime don't carry unlicensed firearms and most of all comply and you probably still be alive the next day

  • The worst enemy of black people are the bad black people who commit crimes and justify their crime by being black and discriminated.

  • black vs white, no its cops dont care and treat people as animals, sorry not feeling the color thing why not work on the real problem, cops need oversight, cops need to pay for there lawsuits out of there pocket not there cities

  • Why are men arrested for violent crime at 10X the female rate? They commit 10X the violent crime.
    Why are Blacks arrested for assault at 390% (three hundred ninety )the White rate? They commit 390% the White rate of assaults (FBI 2016)
    Leftist Whites and professional Black hustlers & victims destroyed, and continue to apologize for, the destruction of the Black family
    …and promote toxic feminism aka unwed motherhood.

  • 😂😂😂 Always the race card why blacks commit 57% of all murders in America why Blacks commit 54 to 56% of all crimes in America. Yet they are only 13% of the population why blacks are arrested in America because they commit crimes, murders and sling drugs. AJ loves playing the race card anything anti white they love to manipulate.

  • so do we forget he was in an robbery? Do we forget that he went for the officers gun? police do not just shoot people because they are black, a police officer is not going to put their family and there jobs on the line to be racist. open your eyes and stop listneing to false news and fake posts. do some research on your own and be smart.

  • All of that you talkin about is designed the field of jail houses and then make people into criminals see you got to understand the tactics that they're using why you think they post black people is so criminalized because they making them that way people going to survive to eat people going to survive the feed a family's so this is what the text is that they're using to the black Americans they forcing you to be a criminal with the tactus and everything that design in the United States of America is towards people of color but the rich black people can't see that study Binding Together like they do let black people have their own businesses and own their own property and land you'll see a difference watch out a neighborhood wicker down cuz they're not going to be bringing no income

  • White fellows are afraid of blacks every where especially if they can read and are well educated

  • STOP! Being blind to what's causing division and criminality? The law makers. If there were laws saying treat blacks like whites. Shit would relax a lot. That mean better work, opportunities, no stop and frisk, no racial profiling or shootings. Whites needs poverty to defined their social classism. And who created hatred of skin color? Whites! There is a reason for that. Ever thought of why? To hate a color was needed in white's lives. And no intellectual reason was EVER exposed. It would really make sense to know why so blacks could make it right. We secretly think WHITES are insane. Was there a historical reason like a ancient CONFLICT! Or just a mental disorder called…..HATE. And sense it is HATE….for what reason? Does white hate have a reason, from the very ancient beginning?

  • No one is arrested for being black… its amazing how a certain segment of black Americans are so narrow minded and bias that they only focus on skin color, not the facts surrounding why the person was arrested or shot.

  • He was fighting a cop. It's even said in the video itself by someone supposedly in support of this very flawed mentality. It took a few seconds from him to die, but 4 hours to remove the body because one was a fight where witnesses claim Brown was trying to hurt that cop and he needed to defend himself, while the latter is a crime scene, genuis. Did you want them to figure out what really happened or not? Oh, wait, that might actually be a not for some here. All skin colors are shot by police, ALL. And most of that all is for good reason. But what doesn't help stop the few that aren't is segregating them by simply race and championing the wrong ones. This isn't systemic racism, this is mass scale stupidity and mindless division.

  • America is not the only racist country. People need to realize that the majority of America is not racist. Anywhere and I mean ANYWHERE in the world you go, there will be a racist person.

  • What Do You Call Abortions In The black Community? Crime Prevention!☻🔫 What Do You Call A black Person With No Arms? Trust Worthy!☻🔫 What Does A black Kid Get For Christmas? Your Kids Christmas Presents!☻🔫 What Do You Say To A black Man In A Suit? Will The Defendant Please Rise!☻🔫 What's The Difference Between A Picnic Table & A black Man? A Picnic Table Can Support A Family!☻🔫 What Do You Get A black Father For Father's Day? A TieCoon!☻🔫🖕

  • This video is so full of shit. No shit black people are getting arrested 2x more, they are doing more crimes. I guess if bail is so unaffordable then maybe people should try harder to not goto jail. This whole video is people crying over shit they can control, goto school, get a job, wait to have babies till you get married and your chances of being poor are not even worth mentioning, its that simple.

  • They don't reproduce and they are just mad because they are fixing to leave # God's plan bae bye🤣🤣🤣

  • Poor victim. Dont brake the laws.dumass fool's. I don't feel sorry for your poor choice in life. You people don't know how to help your self. Sad. I feel sorry for your race of thinking. You won't end well in life.

  • Why are these people acting like Mike Brown was a great kid? Too many African Americans are looking up to criminals as influential figures. Mike Brown attacked someone after he STOLE cigarillos. Then he attacked an officer after the officer told him to "get on the sidewalk". Mike Brown caused his own death. Those stats don't tell you that the majority of African Americans are committing crimes therefore, that's the reason why they're more likely to be in jail. African Americans are more likely to commit traffic infractions. It's not the system, just do things right therefore you won't be in those situations. This whole "I'm black and I'm being picked on" is getting on my nerves. Yes racism exist but, a lot of these situations that African Americans are in isn't because of racism.

  • me get my black friend out of jail for 25000 dollars

    5 minute later…….

    pigs (police) arresting my black friend because of hes skin color

    me: America does deserve 9/11 part 2 on the new world trade center

  • Black incarceration rates have declined relative to the high crime rates comiitted by blacks. Nobody is jailed for their skin color.

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