NAACP press conference discusses "systematic disparities"
COLUMBIA - The NAACP and other groups discussed a number of racial issues at a press conference Wednesday, including the conviction of Dr. Gregory McClain, the son of a Texas pastor.
The Rev. Sylvester McClain said he wants Judge Kevin Crane of the Boone County Courthouse to release his son, who was sentenced to four months in the Boone County jail for harassment.
McClain's charge is a misdemeanor, and the Rev. McClain said it was his first offense.
Speakers at the conference included NAACP President Mary Ratliff, Race Matters, Friends President Tracy Wilson-Kleekamp, the Rev. Sylvester McClain and the Rev. Danny Holliday.
Wilson-Kleekamp said her group has spoken out about the structural and institutional nature of racism.
"In just about every fabric of our society in America, and Columbia is no different, we have institutional practices that unfairly target and exploit and hurt people of color," Wilson-Kleekamp said.
She said people need to re-evaluate why we put people in jail and for what offenses.
"We are very interested as an organization on Judge Crane's outcomes if you will, in terms of sentencing between whites and blacks," Wilson-Kleekamp said.
In 2015 Hunter Park, a white, former Missouri University Science and Technology student, threatened to kill all black people on MU's campus over social media. He was sentenced to five years probation and is convicted as a felon.
However, the groups at the press conference said it is unfair that white man was sentenced to probation for a felony while a black man was given jail time for a misdemeanor.
The groups have requested data about the sentencing outcomes, including race and gender, for misdemeanors and felonies in the 13th circuit, particularly Judge Kevin Crane's court.
"We would just like to have a better look at Judge Crane's sentencing record, and actually probably should look at the whole 13th circuit court," Wilson-Kleekamp said.
She said McClain has been treated unfairly.
"If you look at case net, Judge Crane has never allowed McClain to speak at all."
NAACP president Mary Ratliff said the group stands with the McClains.
"This is not going to be, it will not be, a one-sided affair. And we need everyone to know that, that if we are going to try and bring this community together, it's going to have to be some give and take from both sides," NAACP Columbia Chapter President Mary Ratliff said.
"He's in jail for four months," Wilson-Kleekamp said. "Why can't he be on work release?"
Rev. McClain said his son has a wife, family and a physician, and said he deserves equal treatment under the law.
Wilson-Kleekamp said the Report on the Municipal Division Work Group to the Supreme Court of Missouri, which came out in 2016, shows that black people aren't only targeted in poverty stricken areas. In the wealthy St. Louis-area community of Ladue, black people make up one percent of the population but are 18.5 times more likely to be pulled over by the police.
She said that often times white people are intimidated by successful black people and this case is one that shows how black men are targeted.
"Racism is an institutional and structural issue that a lot our white community does not see," Wilson-Kleekamp said. "So, we are asking you as other humans in this community to step back, take a look these disparities, and ask how you can be apart of making our government that belongs to all of us, work for all of us, and not just some of us."
Rev. McClain said he is not going anywhere and will continue to fight.
"I'm here with one message, Judge Crane has given probation to too many felonies committed by white individuals," Rev. McClain said. "And my son had an agreement, he would be charged with a misdemeanor, because the lawyers told him you cannot get a fair trial in this environment."
Rev. McClain said Judge Crane did not honor this agreement and put him in jail, and his son has served 75 percent of his term.
"I'm here to say, Judge Crane, let my son go. It's time justice prevails."