The InterReligious Task Force on Central America has placed posters around Cleveland reading “Greatly Missed.” These posters tell the stories of victims of police brutality and US state-sponsored violence around the world. The victims include Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, and Michael Brown—killed in recent years by police. They also include Oscar Romero, Jean Donovan, Dorothy Kazel, —disappeared and murdered by graduates of the US-based School of the Americas. Some of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in Guerrero, Mexico are present because of unchecked military assistance to countries with human right violations. Finally, you will see the story of Berta Caceres, Nelson Garcia and Soad Nicole Ham Bustillo, each brutally murdered in Honduras in the past 12 months.
These posters have a common thread of United States-sanctioned violence and impunity. The posters contain victims of police brutality and civilian-targeted warfare from across the Americas. Sadly, their lives and fates are all woven together. The same unjustifiable violence that killed Oscar Romero killed Tamir Rice. United States sponsored violence and militarism inculcated at the School of the Americas and in US-Honduran relations is also part of our own law enforcement agencies. The US-sponsored murder and torture abroad as well as the police murders of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Tanisha Anderson are rooted in historical institutional racism and white supremacy, which must be dismantled.
The blood of these victims cries out from the streets of Cleveland and Ferguson, from El Salvador and Honduras. It is the responsibility of peace-loving and justice-seeking citizens to listen to and respond to their calls. To do otherwise is to be complicit in the violence that has taken the lives of our sisters and brothers and threatened the well-being of our communities.
Alongside these victims are posters of the officers and leaders who are responsible for their kidnapping and murder. Although they are guilty of shedding the blood of their fellow citizens, they have not been held responsible for their actions by any court of law. Impunity has become a cornerstone for our security and police forces. The refusal of society to acknowledge US involvement in the violent atrocities happening in Honduras since the 2009 coup, under the leadership of President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are testimony to this reality. The refusal to indict Darren Wilson and Timothy Loehmann and the release of the Senate torture report are testimony to this reality. There can be no justice for the families of those killed without those that murder and torture being held accountable. They will remain “wanted” until brought to justice.
The InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF) is a human rights organization founded in 1980 by people of faith and conscience in response to the rape and murder of two women from Cleveland, Jean Donovan and Dorothy Kazel, in El Salvador. They were killed by graduates of the School of the Americas. Inspired by their life-long commitment to promoting peace and justice and by their ultimate sacrifice for these ideals, IRTF strives to recognize and address pressing justice issues in our own communities.