Understanding the explosive protests over police killings and the legacy of racism
Following the high-profile deaths of eighteen-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and twenty-five-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, both cities erupted in protest over the unjustified homicides of unarmed black males at the hands of police officers. These local tragedies—and the protests surrounding them—assumed national significance, igniting fierce debate about the fairness and efficacy of the American criminal justice system. Yet, outside the gaze of mainstream attention, how do local residents and protestors in Ferguson and Baltimore understand their own experiences with race, place, and policing?
In Hands Up, Don’t Shoot, Jennifer Cobbina draws on in-depth interviews with nearly two hundred residents of Ferguson and Baltimore, conducted within two months of the deaths of Brown and Gray. She examines how protestors in both cities understood their experiences with the police, how those experiences influenced their perceptions of policing, what galvanized Black Lives Matter as a social movement, and how policing tactics during demonstrations influenced subsequent mobilization decisions among protesters. Ultimately, she humanizes people’s deep and abiding anger, underscoring how a movement emerged to denounce both racial biases by police and the broader economic and social system that has stacked the deck against young black civilians.
Hands Up, Don’t Shoot is a remarkably current, on-the-ground assessment of the powerful, protestor-driven movement around race, justice, and policing in America.
"Beginning with an expansive history of racial inequality in America, the author posits that such racism has often led to excessive force used disproportionately against blacks by police. A useful reference on a topic that requires continued examination."
"Jennifer Cobbina's expertly researched examination of the interlocking dimensions of race, gender, and policing illustrates why the problem of policing in the U.S. is always about much more than policing. [It] is a clarion call for a much broader vision of justice one that relies less on crime-fighting and more on community building. This is a necessary and important book for scholars, activists, and everyday people living under oppressive policing regimes."
"In her tightly focused and morally important book … Cobbina is careful to establish historical and cultural context for the deep-seated distrust so many African Americans feel toward law enforcement in a way that makes the book accessible to a wide readership."
"Hands Up, Don't Shoot is such an important and timely work. With equal parts passion and theoretical nuance, and an eye on history, Cobbina makes explicit why the deaths of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and so many others matter so much. Her innovative research makes clear the necessity for real change in these dangerous times."