California lawmakers lament death of black men in police encounters

While Mike Brown, the teenager killed by police in a St. Louis suburb earlier this month, was buried on Monday, California lawmakers gathered here to call attention to what they called the targeting of young black men by law enforcement.

"Black youth are assumed to be guilty, and violence is inevitable," said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) during a Capitol news conference convened by the Legislative Black Caucus.

Portraits of Brown and other unarmed black men killed in encounters with police, including Oscar Grant of Oakland and Ezell Ford of Los Angeles, were lined up next to the podium.

The lawmakers did not propose new policies but said they would seek new ways to address the issue.

"We can't legislate cultural change or morality," said Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). "It's a broader conversation we need to have."

Like other black lawmakers at Monday's event, Mitchell has talked with her own son about how to handle interactions with police. Her son is 14, she said, and has been singled out by law enforcement.

"Having that conversation as a state lawmaker in 2014 is challenging," she said, fighting tears.

Alice Huffman, president of the California State NAACP, said she would hold events in Oakland and Los Angeles dedicated to police interactions with black people.

"We have to start dealing with the idea that they're untouchable but we're disposable," she said.

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.