In less than 48 hours, two Black men were killed at the hands of law enforcement officers. A day after the second man was killed, eleven police officers were shot in Dallas, Texas – five died. Seven unlawful and undeserved killings. Seven people who should have gone home to their families and lived to see another day. Seven people whose deaths cannot be restored and must not be in vain.
How many times must Black men be unjustly killed at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect, serve and preserve life? By now, most have watched the final seconds of Alton Sterling’s life, as he was pinned down by two police officers before being shot and killed. Sterling was shot while lying on the ground with one officer straddling him and another officer holding him down at the neck.
You hear an officer yell “if you fucking move, I swear to God,” a statement followed by gunshots fired at point-blank range. Sterling had been shot multiple times in his chest. A man, who prior to the arrest had been selling CDs and DVDs outside of a convenience store with the owner’s permission, is now dead for no valid reason. Sterling was a father, son, brother, and friend…he could have been your father, son, brother, or friend…next time it could be your father, son, brother, or friend.
Sterling’s killing happened at the hands of Baton Rouge Police Officers. The U.S. Department of Justice will once again lead a civil rights investigation. The investigation is not enough…officers must be charged and held accountable for their actions. It is not enough that Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II are on paid administrative leave for killing Alton Sterling. They must be terminated, indicted, and convicted.
This system of policing must change, but it will never change if officers are not held accountable for their unlawful and unreasonable actions. The repeated murders, investigations, and lack of indictments and convictions send a message to rogue police officers that they are above the law and invincible.
Less than forty-eight hours after the murder of Sterling, Philando Castile was killed by a police officer in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Castile was pulled over for allegedly having a busted taillight—“a routine traffic stop.” During this stop, Castile informed the officer that he had a permit to carry a concealed weapon and further notified the officer that he was, in fact, carrying his weapon, well within his legal rights.
The officer asked for Castile’s license and registration. Castile had no reason to know that when he attempted to comply with the officer’s commands, he would be shot and killed. The officer intentionally and recklessly fired four bullets into the car, killing Castile while his fiancée and her 4-year-old little girl looked on. Castile was not only wrongfully targeted for being Black, he was also murdered for being Black and legally carrying a gun. The officer involved in this killing must be indicted, charged, and convicted. This widespread system of policing in America must change.
While no change has occurred in the unjust policing in our cities, our communities are losing faith day by day in the justice system. Black men cannot and will not tolerate continually being targets of policing gone wrong. Communities are rightfully outraged, they want answers, they want accountability, and they want justice. Communities deserve justice.
Yesterday evening, in Dallas, Texas, snipers shot eleven police officers, killing five. The attack took place at the end of demonstrations protesting the murders of Sterling and Castile. We do not advocate violence against law enforcement and we strongly condemn the violent acts that occurred in Dallas. What happened in Dallas is what we have always feared could happen if our society continues to fall short of the American idea of “Justice for All.” What happened in Dallas is absolutely not the solution. It is not justice.
We called for change in Illinois, Missouri, Maryland, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, among other states. We asked for resignations. We requested indictments. We demanded justice. How long are our communities expected to wait for the Justice System to come around and do right by them? How long before the system realizes that Black Lives Do Matter just as All Lives Matter? Change needs to happen and it needs to happen now. We cannot wait until there is another Sterling, Castile, or Dallas Police Department situation before we see that change is needed. CHANGE MUST HAPPEN NOW!
Benjamin L. Crump is the President of the National Bar Association and represents the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, and the father of Tamir Rice.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty