DeRay Mckesson talks with a Pittsburgh crowd about social activism and police killings of civilians

Activist DeRay Mckesson spoke at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall on Feb. 12 at an event hosted by PublicSource. (Photo by Kat Procyk/PublicSource)

After more than four years of activism against police violence since the August 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, DeRay Mckesson states plainly that “outcomes haven’t changed.”
The conversation about race, justice and the role of police is “in a fundamentally different place,” said Mckesson, a high-profile activist, author and host of Pod Save the People. Yet the number of reported killings of citizens by police officers across the nation has stayed roughly the same.
“I’m mindful every single day that we have not won yet,” Mckesson told a crowd of about 250 people in Pittsburgh at a Feb. 12 event hosted by PublicSource.
Broadly known for his activism after Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, Mckesson has been accused of exploiting what happened and the work of other grassroots activists for personal gain. At a book talk in St. Louis last September, a self-identified Ferguson activist interrupted Mckesson and claimed he is “a liar” who “did nothing in Ferguson for us” and has only “made money constantly off of us.”

Some Pittsburgh-based activists also pushed back via social media about Mckesson’s appearance in Pittsburgh, calling out Mckesson for profiting off of Ferguson and saying that someone from Ferguson should have been asked to speak.
Responding to a question about the criticism, Mckesson told the audience he had only a small social media following when he arrived in Ferguson but that people sought him out as an information source as protests were happening. He said people criticize him for going on TV but countered that, “I’m on TV talking about police killings.”
Despite his following — for instance, a Twitter audience of more than one million followers — Mckesson said he does not view himself as a top-down leader.
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