Published St. Louis American-July 12, 2016
“I’m right here with you”
Those were the comforting words of a 4-year old who had just witnessed a horrific, reportedly unprovoked police killing of a civilian that no one of any age should have to endure. Her mother, Diamond Reynolds, recorded the aftermath of the police shooting of Philando Castile on her phone. While Castile was bleeding out, the child had to watch her mother being forced out of the car at police gunpoint, handcuffed and carted off to jail.
The Castile killing came right after the July 6 police killing of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. Then came Micah Johnson.
An apparently troubled young man, Johnson reportedly did what he was trained to do by the U.S. military: take out those perceived as a threat. Before his bullets stopped flying, Johnson killed five officers and wounded seven others, including two civilians.
In turn, when police concluded Johnson was a threat, he was blown up by a bomb-throwing robot. It’s not the first time black people have been bombed in this country (Tulsa and Philadelphia), but it was the first time a robot was sent in to do the dirty work.
Closer to home, bullets kept flying. The details are still being sorted in the cases of an alleged shooting of a white Ballwin officer by a black man and a young, black intruder being killed by an off-duty St. Louis County cop.
Bullets keep flying, and the injustices keep heaping up.
City officials and law enforcement seem to be determined that there will be no changes in the way that police conduct themselves before, during and after they have assaulted or killed a black or brown person. St. Louis spends 56 percent of its general budget on arresting and incarcerating folks, mainly black. A whopping $277,840,566 is spent on courts, jails and law enforcement departments.
These people keep trying to convince us that the answer is more police with bigger guns. Or more robots, more drones.
Community pressure must be put squarely on mayors, police chiefs, prosecuting attorneys and judges to create an atmosphere where black bodies have value. This means that police who assault or kill civilians must expect the same consequences if they couldn’t hide behind the badge. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) has 99 ways of avoiding consequences because they have successfully put laws in place that give them greater power while also diminishing the ability of citizens to get justice.
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon bowed down to the FOP when he recently signed into law a bill that restricts access to video from police car dashboards and body cameras until investigations are finished. It also restricts recordings in nonpublic areas except to those in the videos. People who want to view these police videos will need to go to court, which means you’ll need money to hire an attorney. The governor threw gasoline on the simmering fires of frustration.
Shooting our way out of this violent cycle is not an option. We are going to have to think our way out. It means having the resolve of a child who can give assurance to her mother in a traumatizing situation. It means educating our community about how to organize for power and real change. I think it’s an alternative to dodging bullets this summer.