National Action Network: Improving Political, Educational, Social and Economic Status of African Americans

Interview with Rev. Johnnie Dennis, a lifetime civil rights activist and president of the National Action Network, Cocoa, Florida.

The National Action Network is a nationwide non-profit, civil rights organization founded by the Reverend Al Sharpton in 1991, with the aim of fighting critical issues such as racial profiling and police brutality. In recent times, the organization has been involved in the police brutality cases of Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Rev. Dennis is the president of the Cocoa, Florida chapter of the National Action Network. He talks to us today about the great work the Cocoa, Florida chapter of the organization has been doing to combat injustices in the community. He also shares his thoughts on what can be done to curb police brutality in America.
Can you tell us about the National Action Network and what you do?
Rev. Johnnie Dennis
Yes. The National Action Network, Cocoa, Florida chapter, our mission will be to improve the political, educational, social and economic status of African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities to eliminate racial prejudice, to make our communities safer. We use all lawful means against discrimination on a state and federal level. Our motto is no justice, no peace.
You talked about covering several cases connected with police brutality. Can you tell us about some of the cases you and your organization helped with?
Rev. Johnnie Dennis
One of the cases we got involved in, was a road rage case in Palm Bay, Florida. After we got the call, 24 hours later, we held a prayer vigil at Palm Bay, Florida. That Sunday, we held a rally at the Palm Bay city hall. Two weeks later, we had a rally and a march from Macedonia Baptist Church in Melbourne to Melbourne City Hall. Two weeks after that, we held a rally at the Cocoa City Hall and we investigated this case along with the state attorney’s office and the FDLE. Under the Federal Records Act, we got all copies of the case, and the cop was arrested and he has burned it out. He had a second degree murder charge and an attempted second degree murder charge pending. Another case we are involved in is the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office gun range that is located in a residential area. Governor Scott passed a law, as of July 1st, there was actually not supposed to be any backyard ranges in a residential area. So we have a 6-million-dollar lawsuit pending against the sheriff’s office. We acted for an injunction mandamus to order them to withdraw from the lease they have with the county and move and build a range that was in the public using so that they can exercise their 2nd amendment rights and we exercise our 14th amendment right. Another issue that the National Action Network is working on, is we’re going to petition the county commission in Brevard County on November 1st, for term limits for all constitutional officers, the sheriff, tax collectors, supervisor of elections. As at right now, the only one that has time limits is the county commissioner.
How many people are involved in your chapter of the National Action Network?
Rev. Johnnie Dennis
We have around 35 members, present and growing.
Are you involved in protest movements and Black Lives Matter?
Rev. Johnnie Dennis
Yes. We are involved in Black Lives Matter movements also. In Brevard County, when we have an issue, we all come together, the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, the National Action Network and many other civil rights activist groups.
What are the main issues that you think need to be solved and how do you see them being solved?
Rev. Johnnie Dennis
One of the main issues we have in the U.S is police misconduct, police brutality. Our congress has done nothing to resolve these issues. We’ve had three debates of our presidential candidates, not one question was asked about what our congress and the new president are going to do to end police brutality in our states in America.
I totally agree with you. There certainly needs to be a policy change in this regard. What do you think can be done about police brutality?
Rev. Johnnie Dennis
Once we get a new president in office, he can sit with the lawmakers, and describe to them what he/she has heard from Black Lives Matter, from Al Sharpton, what he/she heard from the NAACP president, and many other activists who want laws passed to end police brutality in America. Right now our congress has done nothing, and they tied Obama’s hands so that he could get nothing passed in his eight years.
Do you have anything special to say to our readers?
Rev. Johnnie Dennis
Yes. Anytime an injustice issue comes up in your city, county or state, do not be quiet. Speak up, because when you are quiet, you’re saying “I’m condoning this injustice.” Always speak up and speak out against any injustice. We need to come together in every community, Blacks whites and Latinos, to end injustice. We need to send our legislators and lawmakers a strong message that we are going to be one America.

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