13-year-old activist schools racist police department

3 mins
15 Jul 2022
13-year-old activist schools racist police department

The video has gone viral

image Jonas McIlwain

words Louis Staples

Over the last few years we’ve learned that, if the older generation aren’t going to fix things, young people have absolutely no problem stepping up to the plate. From teen climate activist Greta Thunberg to gun control campaigners like X González, there is no shortage of teenagers who are trying to change the world.

Now, a 13-year-old activist has gone viral for giving a blistering speech during a local city commission meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Naiara Tamminga is tired of city leaders sitting on their hands following the deadly police shooting of Patrick Lyoya during a traffic stop in April.

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Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Lyoya’s family and has been pushing for the police to make public the video of the shooting, tweeted a video of Tamminga’s speech, in which she called the leaders “accomplices” to murder.

“You know, we had someone come up here and talk: ‘And don't teach our children to disobey those who are protecting us.’ I don't see them protecting me,” Naiara said of police officers. A group of peers stood behind her.

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“If you want to talk about those protecting me, I look to those who are standing right now because my trust is in them,” the activist said. “I don't trust any of you. I don't trust any of the police officers because you have shown time and time again that we cannot trust you.”

Lyoya was shot and killed after police stopped him to investigate an unregistered licence plate. Police Chief Eric Winstrom said Lyoya had a "lengthy struggle" with the officer who at one point pulled out a Taser, according to the Associated Press.

Crump’s office said in a petition to have the officer fired, arrested, and prosecuted that “resisting an arrest shouldn't end in a death sentence.”

During her speech, Tamminga described her dismay at not feeling safe. “When I asked my mom if I could be dropped off here, her response was, ‘Is it safe?’” she began.

“I am frustrated and I can't even begin how absolutely terrified I am to live here. I’m expected to raise my kids here. I'm expected to go outside and walk my 5-year-old little brother. God forbid we look too scary.”

“God forbid he accidentally is wearing his hood, and we get the police called on us because we are ‘window shopping to go steal later.’ I don't want to keep coming here. Trust me, this is not how I want to spend my night. I don't want to come here.”

In response to the speech, the case has received international attention and 50 faith leaders have endorsed her list of demands, which includes a federal investigation into the policing culture at the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Tamminga ended her speech with a call to arms. “Do not sit here and make me beg and God forbid that name is mine. God forbid that name is any of these people. God forbid. Thank you.”

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