Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: Why the Protests in Ferguson and Baltimore Matter, and How They Changed America

New York Univ. Jul. 2019. 288p. notes. index. ISBN 9781479874415. pap. $25ebk. ISBN 9781479862320. SOC SCI
Why did thousands take to the streets to protest the 2014 police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Freddy Gray in Baltimore? Cobbina (criminal justice; Univ. of Missouri, St. Louis) gives voice to the protesters, using nearly 200 in-depth interviews to detail and document attitudes and actions. The author embeds her interview data with research on race and place, along with scholarship on social movements, reaching beyond Missouri and Maryland to demonstrate that the killings were hardly outliers but, rather, examples of deep contemporary and historical forces of America’s racialized social control. Beyond unpacking how 21st-century policing in America reflects a systemic culture of repression rooted in slavery and segregation, Cobbina’s narrative, complete with two appendixes on research methods, engages police tactics within the context of community perceptions to address what needs to be done to break structural systems of oppression and create alternative visions for safety that treat the underlying issues that criminalize people.
VERDICT Pointing the way to future activism against repressive policing, Cobbina’s instructive details and enlightening insights will draw in scholars and general readers concerned with ending police killings of black people with impunity.

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