Documentarian Michael Moore hammered US police departments during an American Civil Liberties Union event for their use of force against black and Latino residents.
“This is a totally racist system that we have — there’s no other explanation for it,” Moore said. “It’s so appalling.”
Moore was at the event to present the ACLU of Southern California’s Bill of Rights award to activist musician Tom Morello, he said, when he saw a list of victims of police shootings. According to The Guardian, while 1,000 people overall have been shot and killed by officers this year.
“Was anybody else affected by how long that went on tonight?” Moore said of the list displayed at the event. “It was first appalling, and then it was excruciating. And then I had to turn away. I didn’t want to look at it anymore.”
During his introductory speech, Moore recounted hearing about the death of Freddie Gray in police custody in Baltimore earlier this year, and watching news coverage while filming in Portugal.
“I remember we were sitting there watching CNN and we were so angry about this. I sent Tom a text and said, ‘You know what we need to do, we need to do a prison break. When I get back, we should just pick a prison and announce that we’re going there to release everybody inside,'” he said. “Or, to make it more palatable to the average American who may be watching this, every non-violent person who’s locked up in our prisons. We should start with the assumption that they’re there because of a race-based system and then we can sort it out later.”
Moore said his only worry at the time was that Morello would stage that kind of demonstration before he made it back to the US from filming.
“You’re giving this award tonight to somebody who isn’t just talking the talk,” he said. “He’s more than walking the walk. He’s willing to put his neck and his life on the line because he will not live in a country like this, and he’s not going anywhere. He refuses to have an America that’s this way.”
Watch Moore’s speech honoring Morello in its entirety, as posted by the ACLU on Tuesday, below.