Stop shooting, killing us!
Video of another Black man shot multiple times by White officers roiled emotions and anger, again, with more street protests and unrest brewing.
“As long as we got White people in our neighborhoods, we can expect to be shot in the back,” said an angry caller to host Perri Small on WVON-AM 1690 in Chicago. The midday show conversation in the Windy City mirrored Black frustration and pain expressed over airwaves and social media.
The caller was referring to the plight of Jacob Blake, still hospitalized at Final Call press time, who had seven bullets pumped into his body by White cops in Kenosha, Wisc. He was shot in the back.
A viral video captured the horrific incident as the Black father walked away from officers, who were following him and entered an SUV. His children and partner were in the car as the blood flowed and gunfire exploded.
Another caller said Mr. Blake had lived in nearby Evanston, Ill., was a good person and from a good family. Monday morning callers were livid, frustrated. Many were fed up. It was part of national sentiment across Black America reflected in radio discussions, video blogs, social media posts and street protests.
Yet shortly before the horrible shooting in Wisconsin, police in Lafayette, La., pumped 11 bullets into Trayford Pellerin, who was walking away from officers and holding a knife.
“While we need to know much more about what occurred last night, we know that it began with a routine ‘disturbance’ call and cell phone video from the scene clearly shows Mr. Pellerin moving away—not towards—police officers, only to be tased and then brutally shot dead. Trayford Pellerin should be alive today,” said Alanah Odoms Hebert, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
“Instead, a family is mourning and a community is grieving. Mr. Pellerin’s family and the people of Lafayette deserve answers and an independent investigation of what was clearly an inappropriate and excessive use of force by these officers. None of our communities are safe when the police can murder people with impunity or when routine encounters escalate into deadly shooting sprees,” he said Aug. 22.
“I’m still trying to understand what happened,” Michelle Pellerin, who lost her 31-year-old son, told The Acadiana Advocate. “Why did it have to go this far? Why him? Everybody talks about the video, but I haven’t seen it and I don’t want to see it. I can’t.” She described her son as “kind, intelligent, quiet and shy.” She also said her son, who was subject to anxiety in groups and social situations, may have been frightened by the officers coming at him.
“The officers involved should be fired immediately for their abhorrent and fatal actions,” civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Pellerin family, said of the Louisiana police killing.
He is also representing the family of Mr. Blake in Kenosha, Wisc., and condemned the vicious police assault.
The “nation wakes up yet again with grief and outrage that yet another Black American is a victim of excessive force. This calls for an immediate, full and transparent investigation and the officers must be held accountable,” said Joe Biden, the Democratic Party presidential nominee.
“Equal justice has not been real for Black Americans and so many others. We are at an inflection point. We must dismantle systemic racism. It is the urgent task before us. We must fight to honor the ideals laid in the original American promise, which we are yet to attain: That all men and women are created equal, but more importantly that they must be treated equally,” he added.
Young activists, however, don’t want platitudes or promises when it comes to ending police violence. Twenty-two-year-old Nita Tennyson of The Love Train, a Chicago-based anti-violence group, said, “The first thing would be to defund the police all around the country or abolish them. I want the president to help implement plans of peace all throughout the country so that we don’t need police.”
Mr. Biden, striking the moderate Democrat tone, has rejected the idea of defunding police departments.
“Jacob Blake is in the ICU fighting for his life. He should be home with his babies. Police shot him in the back seven times in front of his children. Mark my words we’re going to fight for accountability just as hard as you’re fighting to survive & make it home to your family Jacob,” vowed Ayanna Pressley, a Black congresswoman from Massachusetts, who is part of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing. It will be interesting to see how the party responds as the country hurtles toward Nov. 3 national elections.
Professional football players, pro basketball players and celebrities condemned the shooting on Black Twitter.
“Stop killing unarmed Black people,” tweeted Michael Thomas Jr., a wide receiver with the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, who led the league in receptions for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
Despite thousands of people in the streets, deployment of National Guardsmen and unrest across the United States, police shootings continue, according to the ACLU.
“The Other Epidemic: Fatal Police Shootings in the Time of COVID-19,” a recent ACLU report, “examined whether circumstances surrounding the public health crisis—unprecedented societal isolation combined with relaxed police department routine enforcement—has led to a change in the frequency with which the police fatally shoot people in the U.S.”
“Our analysis reveals that the police have continued to fatally shoot people at the same rate during the first six months of 2020 as they did over the same period from 2015 to 2019,” said the ACLU. The report was released Aug. 19.
The report also found:
- As of June 30, 2020, police officers had fatally shot 511 people.
- From 2015 to 2019, an average of 19.4 fatal police shootings occurred per week during the first half of the year. In the first half of 2020, there were the exact same average number of fatal police shootings per week (19.4).
- Police in the United States kill an obscene number of people every year. At a minimum, police kill almost 1,000 people annually. From January 1, 2015, to June 30, 2020, police officers shot and killed at least 5,442 people.
- Approximately 46 percent of fatal police shootings kill White people, who account for roughly 60 percent of the U.S. population. Another 24 percent of fatal police shootings kill Black people, who account for about 13 percent of the U.S. population.
It recommended reducing “police departments’ role, presence, responsibilities, and funding, including dramatically transforming use-of-force laws, and instead reinvest into community-based services that are better suited to respond to actual community needs.”
“These measures can lead to a reduction in police interactions, and in turn, help put an end to racist police violence,” the ACLU said.
Bad policing, unrest costly on all levels
The continued unraveling of American society takes an economic, social political toll and a pyschological toll on the hearts, minds and souls of Black people, say researchers and experts.
“Research is now showing that children and adults can experience race-based trauma, which can have profound effects on psychological and physical well-being and can also impact communities as a whole. The threat and experience of police brutality and discrimination can be experienced individually or vicariously, and traumatic symptoms can vary depending on the individual,” observed one study last year.
“Don’t Shoot: Race-Based Trauma and Police Brutality,” a study released by Taylor University, warned “occurrences and threats of police brutality have immense and diverse effects on Black Americans’ psychological and physical well-being.”
“Additionally, race-based trauma can be experienced repeatedly and cumulatively, as well as vicariously,” the study noted.
Cell phone documentation of police brutality exposes police crimes but can also be a trauma trigger.
Dr. James F. Lassiter, a clinical psychologist from Chesapeake, Va., has a specialty in trauma treatment. It’s not just the mental and emotional fear associated with racial trauma that is the problem—the stressors have real impact on Black physical health.
“An ancillary effect in the Black community is a higher rate of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. These are all stress-related disorders, and Black people in this country head the list,” said Dr. Lassiter. “You have a combination of fear, anger, and paranoia. A lot of times, anger when it is not given a proper angle for expression therapeutically, it turns back against itself as depression or suicide.”
There is the economic cost of unrest following the demise of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers who have since been charged in the Black man’s death.
Fox News, in a June report, called the Floyd uprisings the “costliest civil disorder in U.S. history,” according to insurance experts and city officials.
“Prior to 2020, the costliest civil disorder event in U.S. was the 1992 Los Angeles riots, according to PCS, the insurance industry’s primary source for compiling and reporting insured losses,” said the article.
“That five-day event caused about $1.4 billion in 2020 dollars, according to PCS. … But losses stemming from the Floyd protests are likely to far exceed that. In Minneapolis, where some 400 businesses were damaged, owners and insurance experts estimate costs of the damage to exceed $500 million, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.”
“Nationwide, Floyd related protests and riots lasted three weeks in 140 U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., New York; Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. By June 4 at least 40 cities in 23 states had imposed curfews. High-end boutiques in Beverly Hills and New York like Gucci and Chanel were looted, luxury stores in Santa Monica and big box retailers like Target and Macy’s across the US have suffered tens of millions in losses. The National Guard were called in at least 21 states,” Fox News reported.
Cities and states also spent millions on repairs, board ups, graffiti removal, policing and equipment, said Fox News. Looters struck at least 250 CVS pharmacies and 350 Walgreens nationwide and insurance, lawsuits and civil disorder spending could ravage state and local budgets.
Unnecessary escalation, avoidable violence?
Ava Muhammad, national spokesperson for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, watched the Kenosha shooting video. She sees a few things; one is the need for Blacks to take control of their communities and make them safe and decent places to live. She sees a need for Blacks to understand the nature of Caucasian people and police officers and their innate desire to harm or kill Black people. She sees a need to “re-stabilize” and “reestablish the Black family” to help preserve Black life.
“Most police calls into the Black community are from us,” she noted. “And so, we just need to get a grip and start turning inward. No matter how few of us do it. Our people are being deprived of a model, a template for how life should be. And we have a duty those of us who have been hearing the truth and claim to accept the truth, we need to now act on the truth.”
She continued, “But with the ACLU’s report I just say this. It confirms the teachings of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan, it proves that we’re not talking about an aberrant behavior, we’re talking about the nature of a people. Wolves get killed or captured trying to kill sheep. Wolves are going to continue to try to kill and eat sheep. Because that’s what they’re programmed in their DNA to do—to eat sheep and a wolf will never take the sheep if a lamb is available.”
“Where Caucasians, especially those on the police force, they have a certain type of mentality, and they are trained a certain way. And we can’t forget the active role of the Israeli military in the training of U.S. police. And so when they get a call to come into our community, they come with a mindset that we’re not yet processing properly. Because if we did, we would have a state of emergency. Trump is talking about a wall; we need a wall around the Black community. We need men who are at our gates, saying, ‘What do you want?’ It’s an urge. It’s a deep-seated animal instinct in them.
“They don’t think through anything and just because they saw a penalty imposed and a handful of cases on officers in other cities that doesn’t change their innate nature or the culture. It’s going to take a change in us. That’s what’s going to affect their behavior because their native instinct is never going to change. We need to come together and invest in ourselves and begin to impose some system of public safety among ourselves that will begin to reduce the calls,” said the Nation of Islam student minister and attorney.
Police in the southeastern Wisconsin city of Kenosha shot and wounded Mr. Blake after responding to a call about a domestic dispute, setting off a night of protests and unrest in which officers fired tear gas and demonstrators apparently hurled objects and set fire to parked cars.
The shooting happened at around 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, and was captured on cellphone video that was posted online.
In that clip, which was taken from across the street, the Black man, who was later referred to by the governor as Jacob Blake, walks from the sidewalk around the front of his SUV to his driver-side door as officers follow him with their guns pointed and shout at him.
As Mr. Blake opens the door and leans into the SUV, an officer grabs his shirt from behind and opens fire while Mr. Blake has his back turned.
Mr. Blake was taken to a Milwaukee hospital and was in serious condition at Final Call press time Aug. 24.
The three officers were placed on administrative leave, as is standard practice in any officer-involved shooting.
The shooting sparked unrest in the city of roughly 100,000 people, which is along Lake Michigan and between Milwaukee and Chicago. Multiple vehicles were set ablaze and windows were smashed along city thoroughfares as crowds faced off with law enforcement.
Officers in riot gear stood in lines and SWAT vehicles remained on the streets to move people away from city buildings despite the declaration of an overnight curfew. Tear gas was used to disperse groups of people, according to reporters at the scene.
Gov. Tony Evers issued a statement condemning the shooting, “while we do not have all of the details yet, what we know for certain is that he is not the first Black man or person to have been shot or injured or mercilessly killed at the hands of individuals in law enforcement in our state or our country.”
The Wisconsin Department of Justice, which is investigating the shooting, did not release any details about the officers who were involved except to say they had been placed on administrative leave.
Following the shooting, social media posts showed neighbors gathering in the surrounding streets and shouting at riot-gear clad police. Some could be heard chanting “no justice, no peace,” while others appeared to throw objects at officers and damage police vehicles.
Laquisha Booker, who is Blake’s partner, told NBC’s Milwaukee affiliate, WTMJ-TV, that her and Mr. Blake’s three children were in the back seat of the SUV when police shot him.
“That man just literally grabbed him by his shirt and looked the other way and was just shooting him. With the kids in the back screaming. Screaming,” Ms. Booker said.
(Final Call writers Starla Muhammad, Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad, Michael Z. Muhammad and the Associated Press contributed to this report.)