COLUMN BY MICHAEL COARD – THE PHILADELPHIA TRIBUNE
As Jay-Z rhymed on the “What More Can I Say” track of his classic 2003 The Black Album, “I’m everywhere. You ain’t never there.”
That’s exactly what D.A. candidate Larry Krasner could easily say to each of his opponents during this campaign. But he won’t because he’s too humble. Therefore, I’ll say it for him. I consider myself to be the “Angriest Black Man in America.”
And as such, I can honestly say that Larry is by far the best candidate for the Black community in particular and the Philadelphia community in general. But I gotta admit that I initially didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of endorsing a white guy for the top elected law enforcement position in a city that’s nearly 50 percent Black.
But Larry’s no ordinary white guy. Quite the contrary, he’s the Blackest white guy I know. When it comes to candidates for political office, they shouldn’t tell the Black community what they’re gonna do for us. Instead, they should show us what they’ve already done. And Larry’s done a lot. A whole lot.
Here are three (of numerous) reasons why the Black community should vote for him:
1. He’s spent 30 years as a civil rights attorney fighting- often pro bono- for the rights of Black, Brown, and poor people. Before attending law school, he worked as a janitor, landscaper, and construction worker. As a student at Stanford Law School, he fought for the rights of indigenous people, homeless people, and poor people (most of whom were Black). After graduation, he turned down offers for employment in various DA’s Offices across the country and decided to accept a job in Philly’s Public Defender Office and later the Federal Public Defender’s Office here in order to assist people who couldn’t afford to pay lawyers. After working as an Assistant Public Defender for six years, he started his own law firm specializing in criminal defense, police brutality, and civil rights. He’s handled many high profile cases.
For example, after Askia Sabur, whose case received national media coverage, was brutally and viciously beaten in the head, face, and body during an unprovoked 2010 attack by thuggish cops in West Philly, Larry got an acquittal for Askia who had been charged with assaulting the cops. He also got about a million dollars for Askia in a civil lawsuit. Moreover, Larry (along with his wife who at the time was a civil rights lawyer but is now a judge) successfully represented Katrina Northern, a Black firefighter, in a three-year long employment discrimination lawsuit that began in 1998. Furthermore, he is the lead pro bono attorney in defending Black Lives Matter protesters in the city. By the way, he represented me and approximately 100 other lawyers when I organized a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot Die-In” inside the lobby of the Criminal Justice Center in 2014 for attorneys to protest the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson. This stuff ain’t new to him. That’s why he says and his resume proves, “I became a lawyer to do justice.”
2. He’s always supported the very same criminal justice issues that the Black community supports. Those issues include the immediate end to unconstitutional stop and frisk, mass incarceration, unfair cash bail system, racist death penalty, life sentences for juveniles, and police brutality on the streets along with police corruption in the courts. In fact, Larry was one of the key lawyers who helped publicly expose the disgraced Narcotics Field Unit cops whose fraud caused more than 100 convictions to be overturned and 250 civil complaints to be filed. That’s why he and his law firm were selected as chief counsel for the plaintiffs in many of those complaints.
3. He’s not about being “tough on crime” like pandering politicians are. Instead, he’s all about being “smart on crime.” He understands that most crime stems from societal conditions (e.g., inequitable education opportunities, widespread unemployment, destructive drug addiction, and mental health disabilities) that must be addressed first and foremost. But he’s no “sofftie” when it comes to the really bad guys. He certainly believes that the reasonable punishments should fit the crimes and the criminals. That’s precisely why he said, “The D.A.’s Office must target the six percent of criminals who commit 60 percent of the crimes. It must not target entire neighborhoods where people of color and and poor people live.”
As a lawyer with three decades of experience, as a criminal defense litigator who has handled thousands of jury and judge trials, and as a plaintiff’s attorney in civil rights cases involving police brutality and racial discrimination, Larry has the expertise to be a zealous and effective D.A. who can think and operate both inside and outside the box.
We need a guy like Larry running an office that investigates and prosecutes 75,000 cases yearly with a staff of 600 including 300 lawyers and a $35 million annual budget.
As he so eloquently states, “The culture of the D.A.’s Office has brought us to this situation of having drastic injustice, especially focused on Black, Brown, and poor people. That culture needs to change ... As the most progressive candidate in the field, I can provide that change.”
Yes, this Blackest white guy who’s “always everywhere” for Black folks can provide that change. But only with the Black community’s support.
He already won the Tribune’s February 24 — March 3 “D.A. Election Poll” with three times more votes than the runner-up. Let’s make sure he wins again on May 16, this time at the actual voting polls.