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As a community activist, I will continue to assist and defend ‘The People’s DA’ — Larry Krasner | Opinion

Despite the district attorney's controversial comments about crime, his efforts to correct decades of wrongful incarceration of Black and brown people deserve our support, writes Paula Peebles.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner at a news conference in February. His efforts to overhaul prosecutions in the city is marked by "a sense of integrity that was absent in his predecessors," writes Paula Peebles.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner at a news conference in February. His efforts to overhaul prosecutions in the city is marked by "a sense of integrity that was absent in his predecessors," writes Paula Peebles.Read moreMONICA HERNDON / Staff Photographer

I am among the nearly 3 out of 4 Philadelphia voters who chose Larry Krasner to be my elected district attorney. During his second term, I expect him to continue to seek fair and swift accountability for serious and violent crimes, and to do so with a sense of integrity that was absent in his predecessors. Safety to me does not mean spending decades scooping up and jailing young Black men and boys who are considered “at risk” of committing a crime in the future. Safety to me means justice, which means making sure young people are provided opportunities to find positive meaning and purpose in their lives, away from the retaliatory violence that has persisted in so many of our neglected and deprived communities for generations.

I elected Larry Krasner to a second term so that he can continue to free innocent Black and brown men who were wrongfully convicted by a judicial system that would permit decades of egregious conspired arrests and convictions to occur with the sanction of previous district attorneys — Ron Castille, Ed Rendell, Lynne Abraham, and the disgraceful Seth Williams.

We, who are in the streets, understood exactly what Krasner was referencing with his recent statements about news media distracting from the real crisis of gun violence. We have a gun crisis and a justice crisis in Philadelphia and this nation when it comes to Black lives, Black bodies.

I elected Larry Krasner to undo the harms inflicted over decades on untold numbers of Philadelphians by Assistant District Attorney Roger King (the “King of Death Row”), corrupt cops, and racist, incompetent judges who willingly participated in the incarceration of innocent and vulnerable boys and men for decades and even life sentences. None of the aforementioned have clean hands; they are responsible for the dismantling of the Black family and, therefore, the raging anger within the Black community and streets of Philadelphia. Black people do not manufacture guns; guns are supplied and distributed to all American communities while higher law enforcement authorities and state and federal government do nothing to stop them.

» READ MORE: Philly DA Larry Krasner: I was ‘inarticulate’ to say the city is not experiencing a violence crisis

Larry Krasner is The People’s DA and that is why he was elected to serve a second term and with a greater turnout of voters: To make sure the criminal justice system stops robbing innocent people — and people suffering from poverty, mental illness, and addiction — of their potential and freedom. No wonder Krasner is being so openly attacked by the likes of former Mayor Michael Nutter, who oversaw the mass closings of Philadelphia public schools and tried to shut down public libraries in working communities. What did he do during his eight years as mayor to free the innocent? Nutter oversaw a police department that routinely used a stop and frisk policy that affected hundreds of Black and brown men.

Nutter really showed us who he is by echoing the criticisms of Fraternal Order of Police president John McNesby, who defends cops who kill unarmed Black men and calls Black Lives Matter protesters “convicted thugs” and “animals.”

Larry Krasner’s job is to prosecute; it is the job of the police under the leadership of the commissioner to make good arrests. But we have noticed since the call for criminal justice reform in the wake of the symbolic lynching of George Floyd that there continues to be a need for real change in Philadelphia. Where are the media in investigating the police department’s failure to address the 500-plus killings in Philadelphia? Fewer than half of those murders have been followed with an arrest by police.

As an engaged activist for justice and peace in Philadelphia, I will continue to support and assist Larry Krasner in his efforts to correct the decades of wrongful incarceration of my people. I strongly suggest that people not fall for the bait and switch of Michael Nutter, a proponent of starving public schools and mass incarceration. He lost his “street cred” within our community a long time ago.

» READ MORE: Michael Nutter: Larry Krasner owes an apology to the 521 families of Philly’s homicide victims | Opinion

At the end of the day, it’s our people, Black people, that are dying. It’s our children that are being sold weapons to kill each other, and it’s our community that is in a state of emergency which Mayor Jim Kenney refuses to acknowledge.

Be assured, those like the FOP and Michael Nutter are now trying to preempt Larry Krasner’s next four years of commitment to free more innocent Black people, to secure funds to help those on the ground do more to protect and build up their communities — the people who were traditionally locked out of access to the District Attorney’s Office before Larry was elected.

We will not be fooled.

Paula Peebles is the Pennsylvania director and the Philadelphia chair of the National Action Network.