Titled: CRJI stand with Black Lives Matter
#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in relation to the murder of Trayvon Martin, this global human rights movement has recently received widespread attention and momentum, ignited by the death of George Floyd. There has been an international reaction of shock and outrage in response to the police brutality and mistreatment, it has been the catalyst for marches and protests worldwide and has sparked reflection and review from a range of industries and businesses.
BLM aims to create a space for Black imagination and innovation, improve Black communities and lives, by challenging systemic racism, combating acts of violence, seeking justice and freedom, it endeavours to hold individuals and “powers” to account for the issues which disproportionately affect Black and under-served communities.
They outline their core values stating: “We embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with one another… We intentionally build and nurture a beloved community that is bonded together through a beautiful struggle that is restorative, not depleting.”
It is regrettable that in 2020, BLM have on their agenda such a multitude of issues to tackle, this includes and is not limited to: racial injustice, police brutality, criminal justice reform, Black immigration, economic injustice, LGBTQIA+ and human rights, environmental injustice, access to healthcare, access to quality education, and voting rights and suppression. It highlights that we have a long way to go until we can say we are truly a progressive, fair, and inclusive society. It is a powerful movement, black-led but multiracial, it is important that everyone supports and echoes the rallying cry that ALL BLACK LIVES MATTER.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed and Tony McDade, are names that resonate, we can see parallels in the injustice. The legacy of Criminal Justice through the troubles remains a sensitive issue in republican communities. It would be an accurate comment to state that previously Nationalists’ and Republicans’ experience of policing was typically confrontational, negative and hostile. There were strong feelings of mistrust in both the policing and the wider criminal justice system, which brought about its own unique challenges.
Martin Luther King said, how it is “Only in the darkness can you see the stars”. Hardships and sufferings are unfair and unjust, however Dr King spoke eloquently of the constructive learnings we can draw, insights we encounter from such suffering, which can help us develop, become better people and prevent the continuation and reoccurrence of such injustices.
It is often dire, desperate, toxic, and difficult situations that can evoke radical and revolutionary change; such scenarios rouse the need for positive and collective community action. It was such circumstances that led to CRJI’s establishment in 1998. Community Restorative Justice Ireland aspires to build a tolerant, responsive, and inclusive community by providing restorative services to the local areas we serve. CRJI evolved from the need to devise a viable alternative, a non-violent system of community-based justice to replace the informal policing which had taken hold in republican areas, in which punishment beatings and shootings were frequently being conducted. CRJI was based in communities in which the relationship with the police at that time was either non-existent or seriously fractured, CRJI sought to develop this, to improve confidence and accountability in the criminal justice system.
In the north we have seen considerable progress within the policing and justice system, this was significantly aided by the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, substantial changes and developments in policing and the wider criminal justice system. These changes were underpinned by Sinn Fein’s endorsement of PSNI, the role of community based restorative justice programmes and community safety projects. Research shows that there remain deep-rooted sensitivities that continue to surround the area of policing and justice, we recognise this, but this does not detract from the encouraging progress made to date. We hope to see this advanced over time.
We refer to “The Blue Book”, a document which outlined a series of parameters to ensure a legitimate and effective CRJ response, one which would operate within the law, in a non-violent framework, which would respect the human rights of all parties involved, restore relationships and guarantee accountable community involvement. Page 5 of the Blue Book summarises “… It is only right and proper that local communities themselves should decide upon the detailed operation of the system in their communities”. Given the wider context currently, this is pertinent, valuable discussions are taking place, Black communities are challenging the current systems and demanding a review of these, it is inspirational. Many of these communities are calling for the establishment of restorative justice projects in their neighbourhoods.
We have seen other communities develop their own restorative justice mechanism which has helped to heal generations of people, we await with bated breath to see what meaningful changes will occur because of #BLM. We are expectant and hopeful that such alterations to the policing and justice system are actually representative of the Black community, are Black-led, and mirror their needs and reflect their wants. We who work in the field of restorative justice look to see the debate being truly societal, progressive and one that does not limit the value of justice to the area of criminal justice. We believe justice is much more than that and we want to see the development of a social an economic agenda that places justice and equality at its core.