By Charlene Muhammad CHARLENEM
Boiling tension fueled by racial profiling and police abuse in Minnesota erupted into protests and demands for police reform with the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile, a Black motorist.
Mr. Castile was shot to death by police during a traffic stop on July 6 in Falcon Heights, a predominantly White suburb of Minneapolis. He was Valerie Castile’s only son. She said he obeyed the law but died at the hands of a law enforcement officer.
It was only a matter of time before the area exploded, said community leaders in Minneapolis.
According to long time activist Harry “Spike” Moss, in Minnesota no cop ever has been convicted of using unjustified, excessive force, not even of an assault.
“We lost every single case, either by grand jury, secret grand jury, court or judge, we have lost … we’ve been through this before I got started in 1966 standing up,” Mr. Moss stated.
Calls for change persist, but since the 1960s, people have not been able to win anything but money in fighting police brutality cases, he said.
“We’re talking about a pattern and practice of racial profiling, police brutality in police departments across the state, most in Minneapolis,” he continued. He stated St. Paul ranks second.
“There were 1,160 some charges last year alone. Only one cop was suspended, and that was for talking about the chief,” Mr. Moss stated.The first case he handled was in downtown Minneapolis. He said police jumped on a 14-year-old Black girl and beat her to the ground.
Somebody accidentally bumped her into the street during a parade, but before she could get back onto the sidewalk, police attacked her, according to Mr. Moss.
“The community set that town on fire for the first time, and it sent the mayor to the Black community for the first time …. there have been consistent beatings and shootings ever since. We were Ferguson before Ferguson but just wasn’t able to get it out to the world,” he stated.
Perhaps things will turn out differently in this instance, due to modern technology.
Diamond Reynolds, Mr. Castile’s girlfriend, live streamed the aftermath of the shooting by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez on Facebook.
He shot Mr. Castile, with her four-year-old daughter in the backseat. The couple was coming from dropping off Ms. Reynolds’ sister when the traffic stop occurred.
Officer Yanez and Officer Joseph Kauser are on administrative leave, pending an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Gov. Mark Dayton said the Assistant U.S. Attorney General’s Office will be closely monitoring the investigation and provide assistance. When complete, the Bureau Criminal Apprehension will turn over its findings to Ramsey County investigators.
“At this point in time we are watching what they are doing with regard to investigating the incident, and we are planning to proceed with our own investigation of what happened here,” Atty. Larry Rogers said. He represents Ms. Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter.
“As you might imagine, this disrupted her entire family structure. She lost her very best friend in life and she’s very heartbroken about what happened and very distraught about it,” he said.
Outrage escalated as police audio indicating Mr. Castile was pulled over as a robbery suspect due to having a “wide nose” spread through media.
Atty. Rogers said the couple was pulled over because of a broken tail light. “It’s unrefuted by the officer in what she’s saying, that he shot him after he went to get his license and registration as he was told to do. He does not refute that,” Atty. Rogers told The Final Call.
“That officer should be prosecuted and it should be done expeditiously without delay,” he said. The lawyer feels protests reflect a country-wide disgust at the way in which many in law enforcement have treated Blacks in America and particularly Black men.
Part of Minnesota’s degenerate history of police abuse includes “91 days,” three months of gun battles between Blacks and Whites, Mr. Moss said. People were unaware because Minnesota hushed up the news, he said.
Whites were unleashed and went driving through the Black community, just shooting at them, but the community organized a Black patrol and men, women and children fought back, he stated.
“They had just killed (Dr. Martin Luther) King so they figured we didn’t have any leader, and I guess they thought they were going to just wipe us out, but we fought back, and the media kept that quiet for 91 days!”
Activists said history also includes the police killing of two sleeping senior citizens after wrongfully identifying their home as a drug house.
“There are no consequences for what they do, so they are working ungodly and unlawfully as they murder us, no different than our past … It’s been consistent,” Mr. Moss said.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton expressed outrage over the Castile shooting in a July 7 press conference, and said he and all in the state are forced to confront the reality that racial profiling exists.
“I can’t say how seriously I take this. I can say how shocked I am and how deeply, deeply offended that this would occur in Minnesota to somebody who got pulled over for a tail light being out of order,” Gov. Dayton stated.
Mr. Castile’s death and subsequent protests came on the heels of the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., on July 5.
Community leaders, activists, Mr. Castile’s family, lawyers and clergy, have held protests and press conferences in front of Gov. Dayton’s mansion.
In Atlanta, hundreds of protesters shut down Interstates 75 and 87 on July 8. And in London, a large group of protesters brought the streets of the city to a standstill, forcing traffic to other routes for hours.
Also on July 8 rappers The Game and Snoop Dogg rallied with more than 100 men, primarily Black and Latino, outside LAPD headquarters, before meeting with Chief Charlie Beck.
In St. Paul and Minneapolis, protestors shut down both directions of Interstate 94 on Saturday night July 9.
In Los Angeles, some 2,000 attended a Black Lives Matter protest in Inglewood on July 11.
The Coalition for Community Control Over the Police in Los Angeles has planned a “Stop Killer Cops” march and rally on July 16 at Ted Watkins Memorial Park in Watts, Calif.
President Barack Obama expressed condolences to the Sterling and Castile families, and said regardless of the outcome of investigations, what is clear is that the fatal shootings are not isolated incidents.
“They are symptomatic of the broader challenges within our criminal justice system, the racial disparities that appear across the system year after year, and the resulting lack of trust that exists between law enforcement and too many of the communities they serve,” President Obama stated in a message posted on his Facebook page.
Gov. Dayton’s statements were sympathetic to Black suffering at the hands of police, but his actions are the opposite, critics argued. They said state laws empower law enforcement officers to shed Black blood with impunity.
According to Mr. Moss, Minnesota was under mandated mediation from the U.S. Justice Department, but nothing came of it. There was no compliance, and no accountability, he said.
The 2003 Federal Mediation Agreement between the Minneapolis Police Department and the Police Community Relations Council included 120 action items designed to address community grievances about police abuse, the use of excessive force, and institute reforms.
In a March 29, 2016 update on the agreement on her website, Mayor Betsy Hodges apologized, saying some things were accomplished and some were not.
“The governor could have straightened that out. He didn’t! The governor could have straightened out these laws that protect them. He didn’t, and there’s no level of government in the city of Minneapolis, including the city council, that’s willing to do anything about what they do for generations,” Mr. Moss argued.
At one point, a Black ranking officer did stand up, after witnessing two White officers beating a Black man in a garage, but he was suspended and transferred, according to Mr. Moss.
“They broke him down, and ran him off the force … They punished him for doing that,” he said.
In addition, Mr. Moss told The Final Call several officers were bringing Nazi uniforms to work. “I went down to see the chief. He said, ‘I’ll go check on it.’ They came back. He said I did find three uniforms down there in the locker, but they assured me they wouldn’t bring the uniforms back to work,” Mr. Moss said. “I said so they don’t bring the uniforms back to work but they can bring the Nazi attitude into the Black community?”
Nathaniel Khaliq, a retired St. Paul firefighter and former president of the St. Paul NAACP, noted the Castile shooting comes in the wake of non-indictments of officers involved in the shooting of Jamar Clark.
The 24-year-old was shot point blank by a Minneapolis police officer last November, some say while handcuffed, which the police have denied.
“Once again, it shows this pattern and practice of police misconduct and police abuse in the most egregious manner,” Mr. Khaliq said. “This latest shooting is one of the most egregious that I have witnessed in my 72 years on the planet.”
He said if Mr. Castile was pulled over for a robbery, as some later news reports have indicated, the process would have been conducted an entirely different way. Things just do not add up, Mr. Khaliq said.
“It would have been a felony stop … He would have pulled the car over, waited for back up, and they would have asked all occupants to exit the car with their hands up. He wouldn’t have even approached the car,” the past NAACP president explained.
“There’s just some confusion and it really catches them in a major lie,” Mr. Khaliq continued.
According to Mr. Khaliq, police allegedly had a practice of strip searching Black men on the streets of St. Paul. Police also allegedly used to meet Blacks coming in by Greyhound bus and conduct bag searches without warrants.
Sometimes, police allegedly received generic search warrants for reasons like Blacks had too many visitors, were driving new Cadillacs, and other frivolous things, Mr. Khaliq stated.
He said a remedy in the Castile matter is to exact swift discipline on the officers involved. “All an officer has to say is he feared for his life, and that’s the key that opens the get-out-of-jail door.”
Rev. Brian Herron, Sr. of Zion Baptist Church in Minneapolis told The Final Call it is difficult for a people to heal when trauma in various ways keeps being heaped upon them.
A solution is to impact the system economically, and take steps to move forward, he said. “Are we ready to suffer like our ancestors suffered by not taking transit, by not shopping, by not doing the things that would create really an economic crisis where they would have to stop and pay attention?” he asked. “Are we willing to suffer like our ancestors did to gain the freedom, to gain justice?”
In the aftermath of Mr. Castile’s demise, Pastor Herron said he sees youth who are broken and afraid.
“It’s time for all people of God, Muslims, Christians, for us to come together and to work together to build together to reach our people. We can’t be divided any longer along religious lines spiritual lines whatever it is … We need an interfaith movement,” he said.
“Are we processing that none of the people were really engaged in an activity that even justified having a police encounter of the type that would lead to your death?” asked Dr. Ava Muhammad, an attorney and student national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Change will come when people follow the divine guidance and instructions of Minister Farrakhan.
“The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan warned Black people during the Justice or Else! tour that we are under chastisement as a people … because as a people we have rejected God’s plan for our salvation,” she stated.
That plan through the Honorable Elijah Muhammad includes Min. Farrakhan, the embodiment of God’s attribute of mercy, Dr. Muhammad continued.
“He has begged us. He has implored us to follow God’s plan … That plan is a complete separation. That plan is for us to go for self, and he did not leave us without very precise, very specific, very clear guidance as to how to execute that plan,” she stated.
She recalled Min. Farrakhan’s call for 10,000 fearless Black men and women to go to work to make their neighborhoods decent, safe places to live.
“That is the beginning of the separation process, of going for self. It begins with coming together in small clusters and enclaves as every other group of people on earth does in what we call neighborhoods,” Dr. Muhammad told The Final Call.
Those actions naturally produce stores, schools, places of worship and businesses, she said.
(Latasha Muhammad contributed to this report.)