National Outrage Over Police Shooting In Missouri

(Trice Edney Wire) – They were like shots heard around the nation – the shots from a police revolver that killed 18-year-old unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., on Saturday – only two days before he was to start his freshman semester in college.

Within 24 hours outrage had boiled over into protests in the streets of the small town, a suburb of St. Louis. The NAACP, the National Action Network and the National Bar Association had taken stands. And the Federal Bureau of Investigation had announced an official probe.


Photo courtesy of the Seattle Medium

“The death of yet another African-American at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community where he lived is heartbreaking. Michael Brown was preparing to begin college, and now his family is preparing to bury their child – his life cut short in a tragic encounter with the police,” stated NAACP President/CEO Cornell William Brooks. “As the NAACP’s Missouri State Conference and St. Louis Branches seek answers about the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s death, the National office will remain vigilant until accountability and justice are served for the countless individuals who lose their lives to misguided police practices throughout the country. Even as we call for accountability by those charged with protecting the community, we call on the community to act -collectively and calmly until we secure justice for the family of Michael Brown.”

It is a déjà vu situation in which similar killings of unarmed Blacks have become commonplace around the nation. The killings of Trayvon Martin, 17, by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida; Jordan Davis, 17, by Michael Dunn in Jacksonville, Florida; Johnathan Ferrell, 24, in Charlotte, N.C., also shot by police under questionable circumstances; and Renisha McBride, 19, by Theodore Wafer in Dearborn Heights, Mich. are among the most recent highly publicized killings of unarmed youth.

But, nothing has historically raised the ire of Black communities like the shooting of yet another unarmed Black youth at the hands of a police officer. The killing of Brown, a recent high school graduate, touched that national nerve this week.

Events are fuzzy and still under investigation. According to widespread reports, Brown and a friend were walking in the street on the way to his grandmother’s house when they were approached by a police officer.

Despite police claims that an altercation and struggle ensued, eyewitness accounts said one thing is clear. That is that the unarmed teen was shot once before dropping to his knees with his hands raised; then was shot several more times by the officer, whose name was undisclosed as of Monday’s press deadline.

“You don’t do a dog like that,” said Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, in an exclusive interview with NewsOne reporter Brittany Noble. “They didn’t let me identify him or anything,” she said. “It was some girls down there that had recorded the whole thing, took pictures, and she showed [me] a picture on her phone. She said ‘ain’t this your son’ and I just bawled even harder…just to see my son laying there like this for no apparent reason.”

Anger spilled into the street’s late Sunday as a peaceful vigil became disorderly on both sides. CNN showed video of citizens breaking a store window, looting and banging on police cars. One police officer was caught on camera describing the people as “animals”.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, president/CEO of the National Action Network says he will be heading to St. Louis upon the request of Brown’s grandfather, Leslie McSpadden. Sharpton was to visit with the family on Tuesday this week.

“He has asked me to come to St. Louis in light of the police killing of his grandson to assist the family in achieving a fair investigation and justice. I assured him that National Action Network will stand with the family, as we have done for families around the country and assist in any way that we can,” Sharpton said. “I am dispatching Rev. De-Ves Toon of our National Action Network field department to St. Louis immediately to prepare for my visit, and to work with groups in the area as we pursue justice in the tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Meanwhile, the anger has mounted across the nation as has the deaths. Sharpton is also in the midst of a justice fight in the July 17 chokehold death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island father of six who died after being choked by New York Police officers who were detaining him. The videotaped assault showed Garner repeatedly saying he could not breathe before falling unconscious under the excessive force of the police officers.

Sharpton and Garner’s family announced on Saturday plans for a “We Will Not Go Back” march and rally, set for Saturday, August 23. The demonstration, seeking justice for Garner, will be held on the 25th anniversary of the murder of Yusuf Hawkins, an unarmed Black teen who was shot twice in the chest and killed while walking with friends through the White neighborhood of Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1973. The four were attacked by a White mob.

Although police brutality and profiling have been historically commonplace in Black communities, National Bar Association (NBA) President Pamela Meanes indicated that apparent cover ups and withholding of information is often complicating investigations and justice in such cases.

The headline on an NBA statement read, “The National Bar Association Calls for a U.S. Department of Justice Investigation into Deaths Involving Police in St. Louis, Missouri and Staten Island, New York and Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, Texas.”

The release continued, “The City of San Antonio has a practice of not releasing copies of autopsy reports in such shootings, causing many to question the city’s investigation process. With these and other similar trends in mind, the NBA firmly believes that whenever there is a shooting involving a police officer, an outside agency must be called in to handle the subsequent investigation in the interest of fairness and transparency.”

At its annual convention in Atlanta last week, the NBA conducted a Town Hall Meeting on Police Brutality. The organization then announced it would “send an open records request to the largest 25 cities in the United States seeking information regarding the number of unarmed individuals who have been killed and/or injured while pursued or in police custody.”

The organization will then release the results to the Department of Justice and “demand investigations be launched to put an end to any wrongful conduct,” Meanes said. As tension mounts in the Michael Brown case, a second Town Hall meeting by the NBA was scheduled for Tuesday this week.

“The NBA fears that with no immediate intervention the situation will worsen,” Meanes said. “We will not tolerate another person being victimized by someone whose job is to protect and serve…We will and must be the voice of the voiceless.”

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