- BBC News World
For some time now, Ben Crump has become an almost constant presence in the United States for everything related to racial inequality and police brutality.
In the last decade, this 51-year-old attorney has been involved in the most notorious cases of African-Americans killed or seriously injured at the hands of the police.
We talk about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Jacob Blake, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd or, more recently, Daunte Wright and Andrew Brown, each with a different story, but whose common destiny served to shape and drive the movement Black Lives Matter.
Crump barely has time to celebrate a court victory, such as the guilty verdict of former police officer Derek Chauvin on April 20 for the murder of George Floyd in May 2020.
Pending cases or new orders accumulate.
One day he is celebrating a judgment in court with the relatives of a victim and the next day he is at a funeral for another young man shot to death.
Who is this lawyer who seems to be everywhere?
“Until hell freezes over”
Following Chauvin’s conviction, the Lumberton, North Carolina, Florida-based attorney appeared proud on camera.
Surrounded by relatives of Floyd, Crump called the verdict a victory for all.
“Justice is not justice if it does not include each one of us,” he exclaimed. “It is a victory for every man, woman and child who longed for and fought for justicebut he did not live to see it. “
Crump did not lead the criminal prosecution against the former police officer, but represented Floyd’s family in their civil lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis and won the largest financial compensation in U.S. history in a civil lawsuit prior to A judgment: US$27 millones.
“I keep hoping and trusting that if we can make them pay millions of dollars every time they shoot a black man in the back, there will be fewer black people who are shot in the back,” Crump told the media.
“That is my theory, which I remain unconfirmed because they keep killing us. We must fight until hell freezes over.”
He has dedicated his professional life as a lawyer to that fight, even before becoming such a public and media figure.
Consciousness since childhood
“I have been a civil rights attorney my entire professional life, but I have been black my entire life.”
This sentence summarizes Crump’s thought and determination to fight against racial injustice and to defend himself from critical voices, which are also there, that cross him out. opportunistic and to have a desire for prominence.
He grew up near Fort Bragg, a major military base that pioneered the integration of blacks and whites into the United States.
The eldest of 9 brothers and stepbrothers, his transfer to a previously all-white school made him aware of racial differences from a young age.
In his book Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People (“Open Season: The Legal Genocide of People of Color”), Crump describes how in elementary school he learned that a white classmate’s weekly allowance was the same as his mother’s weekly salary from two factory jobs. shoe store and hotel laundry.
In this autobiographical work, Crump recalls how his mother told him the story of the famed civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall, the first black judge to reach the US Supreme Court, who became its hero.
He went to high school in Tallahassee, Florida, where he lived with his mother and her second husband, the man Crump considers her father.
He was awarded a scholarship to Florida State University (FSU), where he studied law and was president of the Black Students Union.
“He has always fought for these issues, and at the time it wasn’t that different. He fought whatever injustice he perceived as such, “Sean Pittman, an FSU graduate and attorney who has known Crump for more than 30 years, tells Time magazine.
For Pittman, the cases Crump defends now are bigger and more important, but the man is the same.
With deep religious beliefs, Crump has been married for 22 years to his wife, with whom he has an 8-year-old daughter, Brooklyn.
Crump took on African-American civil lawsuits early in his career, shaping his current profile.
He obtained high financial compensation in several lawsuits that made his name begin to be known in Florida.
Until the Trayvon Martin case came along, which was the one that gave Crump national notoriety as a civil rights attorney.
Trayvon was a 17-year-old young man who, one night in February 2012, was walking down a street in Sanford, Florida, towards the house of his father’s girlfriend.
It was night and the boy was unarmed, but George Zimmerman, a volunteer guard patrolling the area, attacked and killed him. He claimed that he had done so in self-defense.
Trayvon’s father contacted Crump to represent the family and that is how the name and image of the lawyer began to be associated with these types of cases.
“Attorney General for Blacks”
After that of Trayvon Martin came other cases, such as that of Michael Brown In Ferguson, Missouri, an 18-year-old was shot dead in 2014 by white police officer Darren Wilson.
Or that of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman from Louisville, Kentucky, who was killed in a shooting at her own home in a police raid.
All these processes have earned him nicknames, among which stands out that of “Black United States Attorney General“as Reverend Al Sharpton put it.
When that nickname is mentioned, Crump just shrugs.
Object of criticism
Cameras follow Crump wherever he goes, people stop him to take pictures with him, he has appeared in documentaries and even briefly in a movie, “Marshall,” about his admired Thurgood Marshall, and Netflix is preparing a film about his fight.
Conservative author Candace Owens charged him in April try to profit of police shootings and of stimulating violent protests.
“Keeping racial issues alive has become a business in America,” Owens said in an interview on the conservative Fox News channel.
“It was Al Sharpton yesterday, Jesse Jackson tomorrow, Ben Crump today.”
This does not bother Crump: “It would be the height of arrogance to think that everyone is going to adore you. This is not a popularity contest“.
A great signature
Contrary to what it might seem, the Crump rate is the standard for cases where the agreement is that the client does not pay anything until there is a resolution.
Those who win in court or receive compensation typically pay their attorneys between 33% and 40%.
Crump, whose elegant Tallahassee-based law firm employs 110 people, explains that he makes most of his money and pays his staff with earned income in less visible cases.
It doesn’t feel unique or essential.
“I hope to do everything humanly possible, for as long as I can, and when I can’t, It will be perfect for me to pass the baton on to the next generation“.
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Who is Ben Crump, the “black attorney general” who gained fame with the most notorious cases of police brutality in the US – BBC News World