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'You see us making progress.' Attorney Ben Crump on the fight for Black lives

George Floyd Officer Trial
Christian Monterrosa
/
AP
Attorney Ben Crump hugs Reverend Al Sharpton as he walks into the Hennepin County Government Center for the sentencing of former police officer Derek Chauvin on Friday, June 25, 2021 in Minneapolis.

Crump will be in Tampa next week, for a Black History Month celebration at the Tampa Bay History Center.

For the past decade, Tallahassee attorney Ben Crump has been on the front line of the Black Lives Matter movement, representing families of African Americans killed by police. He is a constant presence in courtrooms and protests around the country.

Crump will be in Tampa next week, for a Black History Month celebration at the Tampa Bay History Center.

He spoke with WUSF's Bradley George. Below is an edited transcript of their conversation.

What's a case that you've been involved with that people may not be as aware of that you think they should know about?

I think Corey Jones is one that often gets overlooked. Corey Jones was killed in West Palm Beach by an undercover police officer. He was parked on side of the road at about 3 in the morning, waiting for a tow truck. It's just heartbreaking because, but for the recording from the tow truck driver, the police officer told lies and would have got away with it. The other, I would say, would be Markeis McGlockton right there in Clearwater, Florida. This young man who was killed by this white man who for whatever reason, thought he had a right to impose his will on this Black family. And when Markeis McGlockton sought to defend his Black family, the white man shot him. And I think these cases are significant because you see us making progress where people are now starting to, in some instances, to be held accountable for killing unarmed Black people — especially Black men — which was something so rare, something so remote, a decade ago.

I think about all the times I've seen you in the media at press conferences and rallies. You're with these families who are just broken. They're going through the worst possible thing to go through — the loss of a loved one. What do you say to a family in that moment?

I tell them that we're going to work as hard as any law firm on the planet to try to get to the truth of what happened to your loved one. Oftentimes, in their heart, they already know the truth because they know the personality of their loved ones. But I tell them we have to come up with objective evidence to demonstrate the truth. And in a police shooting most of the times I tell them we have to come up with irrefutable evidence to overcome this presumption of the police narrative that whatever the police say, it's going to be taken as the gospel by American society.

You're speaking at this event that's honoring Dr. Bernard Lafayette, who was born in Tampa. A legendary figure in his own right. I wonder, have you two crossed paths in your work?

I don't. But I know Delano Stewart and Carolyn House Stewart, who are mentors of mine. In fact, Delano Stewart is the father of Black lawyers in the state of Florida, and definitely the godfather of Black lawyers. And I know when we talk about this history museum in Tampa, Tampa has such a rich history to offer as a blueprint for our young people to say, this is how you stand up for the rights the civil rights and human rights of people who have been historically and traditionally denied equal opportunity and access to the American dream.

Bradley George was a Morning Edition host and reporter at WUSF until March 2022.