According to Reverend Al Sharpton, the United States justice system has already proven itself to be racist - but the problem is made even worse by black people in power who perpetuate such injustice. The civil rights leader made his point while defending Meek Mill and scolding Judge Genece Brinkley, who sent Meek to prison for probation violation in late 2017.
"What she's done is a disgrace to all of us that ever stood up in the first place," Sharpton lamented. "We did not march to go to jail and suffer, for our people to get on the bench and look down their nose and forget how they got there in the first place."
Sharpton joined Meek Mill's lawyer Joseph Tacopina and his mother Kathy Williams on Tuesday afternoon for Reform: Bringing Injustice To Light, a town hall at University of Pennsylvania. The gathering was held as an avenue to shed light on Meek's case, but also to call for reform in the Pennsylvania judicial system.
Tacopina repeatedly referred to Meek's case as "a perversion of justice." Meek was arrested over 12 years ago at age 18 for gun and drug possession. When he was 19, he was granted probation and has been arrested a few times over the past ten years.
This past November, he was sentenced to two-to-four years in prison\ for another infraction. Tacopina says that Meek's original arrest should have been thrown out in the first place, especially after the recent explosive report in the Philadelphia Inquirer that listed 29 cops - including Meek's arresting officer from 2007, Reginald Graham - accused of breaking laws, ranging from brutality to possession of child pornography. Graham was investigated for "several alleged acts of corruption." All of the former officers have been placed on the Philadelphia District Attorney's "Do Not Call" list, which advises public defenders not to call these officers to the stand in court cases.
"It was a bad arrest with a corrupt officer, a cop who lied about circumstances, beat Meek unconscious, pulled a braid out of his hair," Tacopina said of Meek's arrest as a teenager. He also noted the former district attorney who worked that case is now serving time in federal prison.
Tacopina added that Judge Brinkley "abuses her title and position power."
"The judge threatens to sue me every day," he added. "I'm waiting. I'm right here. I'm in your state. I will not be intimidated by some overbearing judge. I will not be intimidated by some corrupt cops. Meek will come home and the system will be better for it."
Sharpton said that Brinkley's behavior reflects issues of classism in the black community.
"Some of us...get 'Negro amnesia' and act like people didn't pave the way for us. ... I want this black judge, this black woman, every time she looks around at people that she may think respects her [to see that they] are totally ashamed and embarrassed by what she did to Meek Mill. … Our young brothers in the hood need to know that we will stand up and fight for them because they are worth being fought for like anyone else in the United States."
"[W]e're talking about not only a system that is racist. We're talking about some blacks in the system who have a class problem," Sharpton said, adding that civil rights organizations should be supporting Meek Mill through this ordeal. "If we don't stand up to this bias we have one to another, as well as what they do with race, then we will never be able to break this cycle that's a threat to all of us."
Meek's mom Kathy Williams received a standing ovation when she was introduced. As she fought back tears, she told everyone she was grateful.
"I don't know what to say," she told the audience. "I'd like two thank everyone for coming out supporting my son. [We are here] not just for Meek but for people treated unfairly. It's all corrupt. I feel like I was a criminal from them doing this to my son for 12 years."
Later, Meek himself called in and thanked those who have held him up during his trying time.
"I wanted to say I appreciate all the love and support from the people," he said. "I think it was time Pennsylvania had some type of light shined on the system."