Black National Convention puts spotlight on police brutality

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FILE - In this June 24, 2020, file photo, Antonio Mingo, right, holds his fists in the air as demonstrators protest in front of a police line on a section of 16th Street that's been renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza, in Washington. Black Lives Matter activists are holding a virtual Black National Convention Friday, Aug. 28, to adopt a political agenda calling for slavery reparations, universal basic income, environmental justice and legislation that entirely re-imagines criminal justice reforms. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

NEW YORK – Black Lives Matter activists are holding their first Black National Convention Friday, a virtual event that will adopt a political agenda calling for slavery reparations, universal basic income, environmental justice and legislation that entirely re-imagines criminal justice reform.

The gathering follows Democratic and Republican party conventions that laid out starkly different visions for America. It also comes on the heels of yet another shooting by a white police officer of a Black man — 29-year-old Jacob Blake — in Kenosha, Wisconsin, that sparked days of protests, unrest and violence.

And it comes on the same day as a commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington, where the families of an ever-growing list of police and vigilante violence victims will appear with civil rights leaders.

Friday's live-stream broadcast will include policy proposals on such issues as voter suppression, reproductive rights, inequality in public education, housing insecurity and inter-communal violence, according to its agenda, shared exclusively with The Associated Press.

“These are absolutely public policies that the Democratic Party, state and local officials, or anyone who is looking to serve Black people can take up now,” said Jessica Byrd, who leads the Electoral Justice Project of the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition of more than 150 Black groups organizing the event.

In 2016, the coalition released its “Vision for Black Lives” policy platform which included early proposals for defunding police. The new agenda revamps much of that original platform with specific proposals that could lead to an eventual abolition of the criminal justice system as it exists today.

It takes on the pledge Wednesday by Vice President Mike Pence at the Republican National Convention, who defended police and called for an end to unrest in cities where arson, looting and violence have followed peaceful protests over police brutality.

“Under President Trump, we will always stand with those who stand on the thin blue line,” Pence declared. “And we’re not going to defund the police. Not now, not ever.”