Ben Crump, the Rev. Al Sharpton says, is “Black America’s attorney general.”
In less than a decade, the Florida-based attorney has become the voice for the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd — Black people whose deaths at the hands of police and vigilantes sparked a movement.
He has won multimillion-dollar settlements in police brutality cases. He’s pushed cities to ban no-knock warrants. He has told a congressional committee that reform is needed because “it’s become painfully obvious we have two systems of justice; one for white Americans and one for Black Americans.”
And he’s stood with Black farmers taking on an agribusiness giant, and families exposed to lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan.
“He’s a real believer in what he’s doing. He has taken the attacks. He has taken the cases that others wouldn’t take,” Sharpton said, adding, “People can go to him. The reason I trust him is because he has never misled me. Good or bad, he’ll tell me the truth about a client.”
These days, he seems to be everywhere. In April, he joined with George Floyd’s family in celebrating the conviction of ex-cop Derek Chauvin. Then he was among the mourners at the funeral for Daunte Wright, who was shot during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis in the week leading up to Chauvin’s verdict — a juxtaposition he finds incredible.
“If ever there was a time for police to be on their best behavior, if ever there was a time for them to use the greatest standard of care, if ever there was a time for them to de-escalate, it was during this trial, which I believe was one of the most consequential police (and) civil rights cases in our history,” Crump told The Associated Press.
After Wright’s funeral, he was back in Florida to call for a federal investigation of a deputy who fatally shot two Black teenagers. And he began this past week demanding that police in North Carolina be more transparent after deputies fatally shot a Black man outside of his house.
Critics see him as an opportunist who never fails to show up amid another tragedy. But those who know Crump say he’s been fighting for fairness long before his name was in headlines.
“Where there’s injustice, that’s where he wants to be,” said Ronald Haley, a Louisiana attorney, who’s among a wide network of lawyers Crump works with on lawsuits. “He understands he’s needed everywhere, but he also understands he can’t be everywhere.”
Crump, 51, is a tireless worker who mixes Southern charm, a talent for attracting media attention to his cases and a firm belief that racism afflicts the nation, and the courts are the place to take it on.