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Drug Laws and the Killing of Andrew Brown, Jr.

Not even a day after the Derek Chauvin guilty verdicts came down, another Black man—Andrew Brown Jr.—was executed in cold blood by police. And once again—as has been the case in too many of these fatal encounters—suspected drug involvement was what gave law enforcement the excuse to completely disregard the value of human life.

Like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Marvin Scott and Carlos Ingram Lopez and Daniel Prude and so many others, Andrew Brown Jr. would be alive today if it were not for the drug war. What was supposed to be a search and arrest warrant for drugs ended up being a death sentence.

Holding one officer accountable does nothing to fix an inherently broken and racist system. This is a systemic issue that demands a systemic response. So long as the drug war remains and we continue to rely on police versus our public health systems to deal with drugs in this country, law enforcement will continue to exploit the premise of the drug war to excuse these deaths and shield themselves from accountability. And tragically, we will continue to see Black, Latinx and Indigenous people killed in horrible and unimaginable ways.

Our communities deserve better. Black, Latinx and Indigenous people deserve to live in a world—where regardless of whether or not they use drugs—they are given the same chance to live. Where they don’t have to constantly look over their shoulder, be afraid to go to sleep at night, or wonder if the next police stop for something as simple as an air freshener—or even the call for help they made—will inevitably lead to their death.

Kassandra Frederique is Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

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