Amid members’ calls for accountability, King launched ShaunKingTruth.com on Nov. 19, 2015. Although the essays published there tackle most criticisms against King, they don’t address the JT30 and JTA open letters directly.
Written in third person, the essays deny allegations that King stole from funds for the families of Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, and Bree Newsome (the activist who removed the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol). King said he was not involved in setting up the fundraisers, and only assisted with their promotion.
The answers King provide have little to do with JT30’s concerns addressed in its open letter. Most evidence supporting King is focused on accusations made by right-wing media pundits, such as Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who accused King of starting fraudulent nonprofits. King rebutted O’Reilly’s accusations of financial mishandling by citing trustworthy sources that vouched for his past fundraising, including civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who confirmed Rice’s family received funds raised with King’s help.
Although King mostly fended off character assassinations, he did admit to mismanaging Justice Together, faulting his busy schedule and the attacks against him in August. However, many other criticisms were left unanswered at the time of publication.
Activists remained quiet about their feelings about King throughout the Black Lives Matter movement, fearing that negative attention towards one of its most visible figures would somehow discredit the fight against police brutality in the U.S.
“Many of us chose not to speak publicly about our disappointment with JTA’s dissolution and King’s mishandling of the organization,” a passage in JTA’s Nov. 19 open letter said, “because we know the forces of white supremacy will attempt to exploit such disagreements to delegitimize the movement for black lives.”
Indeed, that much became clear the moment former members of Justice Together began tweeting under #ShaunKingLetMeDown; white supremacists were swift and buried Black Lives Matter activists’ concerns in all the noise. But from interviews with former members of Justice Together and JTA, as well as the progress made by decentralized organizations, such as Campaign Zero and the Black Lives Matter organization, the movement against racialized police violence and institutionalized racism in the U.S. is about more than one single actor.
white supremacists were swift and buried Black Lives Matter activists’ concerns in all the noise.
For instance, Campaign Zero, an organization founded by high-profile activists Johnetta Elzie and DeRay McKesson, as well as data scientist Samuel Sinyangwe and St. Louis activist Brittany Packnett, embarked on the “behind-the-scenes” work that Justice Together had originally intended to do.
Since its launch in September 2015, Campaign Zero has published two reports as part of its police-oversight campaign. The first report indexes the implementation of bodycams in police departments across America’s 30 largest cities. The second analyzes police contracts that help officers avoid accountability. In comparison, Justice Together aimed to create a 35-point checklist to audit police departments, according to King’s emails. Activists were also supposed to collect data from local police departments, but no action plan was published by the time King decided to fold the organization.
Former JT30 and JTA members who spoke to NTRSCTN are working on moving past their experiences with King, making it clear that they remain steadfast in their goals. The movement is greater than one person, they said.
But more importantly, the activists said they don’t want anybody to repeat King’s mistakes, and hope their experiences serve as a cautionary tale.
“There is a power imbalance between people like Shaun King and volunteers like JT30—it honestly resembles that of police officers and civilians,” said former Virginia director Miller. “Leaders in this movement for unadulterated justice in law enforcement should embody that which we demand from police departments: integrity, transparency, and accountability.
“And, if our leaders are unwilling to embody those ideals, then they are truly disingenuous in demanding that of others.”