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Black Mothers Forum meets with Ducey to discuss police violence

Posted at 8:53 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 00:00:39-04

PHOENIX — Is the message behind the past two weeks of marches making it to Governor Doug Ducey?

​Apart from a few tweets and a press conference one week ago, Arizonans haven't heard much from their governor about police brutality protests happening around the state. ​

​One of the people that showed up in his Twitter feed on Tuesday was Janelle Wood who founded Black Mothers Forum in 2016. ​

​"We brought together mothers to develop our collective voice around the concerns we have for our children--our sons and our daughters--being killed by police. Especially when they are unarmed," she said. ​

​The non-profit focuses on disparities in education and discipline of Black children in schools in an effort to limit police interactions as children get older. But she says the recent killings of George Floyd and Dion Johnson at the hands of police have refocused their attention squarely on systemic issues within police departments.

​"Our children should not have to be in a world where they are always constantly worried about if they get stopped by law enforcement, whether or not they're going to survive the stop. Unacceptable," she said. ​

​Democratic members of the Arizona legislature have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to take over the investigation.

Wood says State Representative Cesar Chavez thought the voice of Black mothers was one that Ducey needed to hear and facilitated a meeting. ​

Wood says she did not hold back. Relaying a message from the family of Dion Johnson who was shot and killed by a Department of Public Safety motorcycle trooper in the early morning hours of Memorial Day.

"What they need is answers. What they need is a police report. They need the name of the officer who killed her son. Shot him and left him for dead on the ground," she told ABC15. "He was the first black man killed on May 25. He was killed the same day as George Floyd. Thing is that his wasn't caught on tape."​

Johnson's family have held several press conferences to express frustration saying they have not received a police report or additional information from DPS about the circumstances surrounding his death. ​

The Phoenix Police Department is handling the investigation but told ABC15 that Johnson was found passed out drunk in his car on the Loop 101 near Tatum and after a "struggle." The trooper said he was afraid that he would be pushed into traffic. The motorcycle officer had no dash cam or body camera video. But according to the family’s attorney, another local media outlet recorded an Arizona Department of Transportation traffic camera shortly after the shooting. According to the attorney, it shows that paramedics were on scene but waited six minutes before attending to Johnson's wounds. ​

"They (Johnson family) need a meeting with the director of DPS to share with him their concerns about how they have been treated and how this investigation has not been transparent and that there has been such a lack of communication," Wood said she explained to Ducey. ​

"I believe that he will set up the meetings. That he will with DPS for us and to help Dion Johnson's family get some of the answers that they need."​

In addition to those requests, Wood said she questioned why he has not been more vocal about recent police violence. ​

"I said, 'Governor we need you to say something. And we need you to be visible. We have not seen you in our community. Why is that? And how come we haven't heard you speak to this?'"​

She also asked him to publicly renounce racism. ​

"Make a statement that he is committed to making sure that these racial overtones and undertones and these institutional racist practices, policies and curriculum and mindsets--he will not stand for and he will not tolerate. And he will do his part to eradicate that."

Another demand was what Wood calls a "cease fire" from Arizona police. ​

"He tells all the police departments to cease firing on unarmed black men and women. Period," she said. "He has the executive order and the power to do that too."​

​Wood does not expect that to happen, but she does believe he was listening. ​"I think parts of what I said to him about being a parent resonated with him because he is one."​

​During the conversation Wood says she also appealed to Ducey's Catholic faith. ​

"Me being a minister...I always have to go to the Word," she said. "I said, 'according to Luke 18: 1 through 8 it says this: there was a woman who kept coming to an unjust judge. And he didn't care about anybody but because she kept coming to him seeking justice, he said this woman is gonna wear me out if I don't give her what she wants.' ​ I said, 'governor, you are sitting in the seat of the unjust judge. I’m not saying you're unjust, but what I am saying is that you have the power to give us the justice that we want.'"

​Wood says Ducey left the meeting with actionable items that she expects to be fulfilled like the demands from the Johnson family and her request that he bring younger Black voices to the table. ​

​Either way, she says she'll be back. ​"We are not playing. We are going to get these changes for our young people."