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SOS: Taking the Response to Police Acquittals to Another Level

A View from the Battlefield

Published at BlackCommentator,com on September 21, 2017

SOS. Save our Ship. Save our Souls. Save our Society. Save our Sons. Same Ole Shit. However we define the acronym, it is a distress call. This country is in crises on so many levels–judicially, politically, spiritually, economically, etc. This can be witnessed in the stressed lives of the working class and acutely experienced in Black and Brown communities. With another racist acquittal of a killer cop, the haunting question is what we have learned about justice and injustice since the 2014 Ferguson Uprising. The “we” is both public decision-makers and our racial justice movement. 

The St. Louis metro region recently erupted into righteous outage with the acquittal of a killer cop. Jason Stockley is a disgraced former St. Louis cop who killed an unarmed Black man in 2011. Just trust me when I say that of any officer-involved shooting in St. Louis, this was the case that should’ve resulted in a conviction of some degree. If not first-degree murder, then second degree or manslaughter. But nothing! Even the local Black officers’ association and a national Black law enforcement group jointly called for a conviction. This was a bold and unprecedented move that inspired our actions.

Here’s the evidence that came out at trial: Stockley came to the scene with an AK-47 in violation of department rules that prohibits unauthorized personal weapons. During the police chase, Stockley is heard on the police radio announcing that he’s “killing this motherf***er.” Forty-five seconds later, Stockley delivers the kill shot, almost at point blank range while Smith sat in his car incapacitated because of deployed airbags. Stockley attempts to shield an interior police cam showing him rummaging in his police duffel bag. A gun later appears on the front seat of Smith’s car; test results only confirmed Stockley’s DNA on the gun.

Cell and police cam videos along with the police radio transmissions were released weeks before the trial. Stockley waived his right to a jury trial, choosing to comfortably but his fate in the hands of a supportive white, male judge.

Stockley’s partner refused to testify even when offered immunity. The formidable Blue Wall of Silence prevailed once again.

It is vividly clear to veteran freedom fighters and a new (and growing) sector of our community that white supremacy will be protected at all costs. Judge Timothy Wilson’s decision to acquit former cop Jason Stockley was the tipping point for action for many who still needed to be convinced that the whole damn system is guilty as hell. Locally, we have seen our forces increase but that’s just a first step.

The white power structure and its cronies are keeping alive the words of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney in the St. Louis case of Dred Scott. Blacks are “…inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit.” This is the ugly legacy that freedom-loving people of all backgrounds are still fighting to change.

The national body politic infects/affects the state and local happenings. You have a sitting president who supported racial violence and murder. trump is responsible for the wave of white supremacist groups coming out to flex their white muscles in the name of “Make this Country Great Again” (MAGA). You have the conspiratorial alliance between police departments, mayors and prosecutors who consistently send the message that Black lives don’t matter through their policies and actions. Jeff Sessions made this clear on his first day as head of the Justice Department. In this scenario, Black and brown lives are not just collateral damage but the hard targets of this country’s strategy to maintain the status quo. All these incendiary elements are adding to the fires of combustion.

Here’s some take-aways from the Stockley acquittal that can inform your local organizing against institutional racism and acts of racist aggression:

-The explicit racial bias of the judge was evident in his 30-page justification. Most notably was his reference that an “urban heroin dealer not in possession of a firearm would be an anomaly.” This showed the world the pedigree and depth of racism that we are dealing with in the region, often evident in other jurisdictions. Judges must be held accountable.

-Stockley said he “did nothing wrong.” According to police policy and culture, no officer who violates the rights or takes the life of a Black person has done anything wrong. This is not just an anti-Black opinion, this is policy. It is a tragic reality that must be changed.

-The standard get-over justification for cop acquittals is that they “feared for their life.” This excuse must be made unacceptable and unusable in court. The counter-narrative that we must elevate and popularize is that Black people fear for their lives, especially young Black men.

-Stockley opted for a bench trial. Trial by judge does not have to be automatically granted; judges can refuse the motion for a bench trial, especially if there’s a vested community interest in the outcome. Only a trial by jury is a constitutional right. Communities should be mindful of this new possible trend and vigorously oppose it as the easy way out for cops to avoid accountability.

-#nojusticenoprofits is a hashtag and rallying call which signifies that the business life of the region will be disrupted. You won’t always know in advance when and where it will happen but if the safety and security of Black people are shattered daily so must be the flow of capital. Organize accordingly to shut it down as part of an ongoing strategy.

-This country spends billions to uphold white supremacy at the expense of working people and people of color. This comes in the forms of opposing fair wages, legal actions and settlements by police and corporations for criminal acts, payoff to lawmakers and lobbyists to undercut laws that protect citizen rights, the roll-back of laws and policies that protect people and the environment, and the list goes on. We must demand re-investment those dollars into our communities for living wages, viable communities and public institutions that are accountable to people not corporations.

Our movements need to build stronger organizations with the capabilities to politicize masses of people around strategic objectives. This must be done is an intentional and planned way if we are to develop leaders in our communities who are committed to radical transformation and not self-promotion.

There is no U.S. Calvary coming to save us. In the wisdom of our elders, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Organize accordingly.


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