On Tuesday, the mayor of North Charleston, S.C., announced that a white police officer would be charged with murder in the shooting of a Black man, who was apparently unarmed. The incident took place on Saturday, and a graphic video of the killing, which was provided to the New York Times, shows the officer shoot the man in the back as he runs away.
According to reports, the shooting occurred after police officer Michael T. Slager stopped 50-year-old Walter L. Scott for a broken taillight. The New York Times states that Scott fled and was chased by Officer Slager to a nearby lot. Scott was reportedly tased, but continued to flee from the officer. Eight shots were fired by Officer Slager at Scott’s back as he ran.
The Scott family and their attorney L. Chris Stewart held a press conference Tuesday night, and stated they were thankful the person who took the video came forward and that the officer was charged. “It doesn’t happen all the time,”Stewart stated.
Last December, in Chicago, I took the elevator down from teaching a class to find the lobby full of students anxiously staring out the window. I walked forward to leave, and the security guard grabbed me by the arm. She was an elderly black woman, and it was the first time I’d seen her working security in that building. But she still looked at me with a kind of intimacy as she begged me, “Please don’t go out there, they’re protesting out there.” I apologized to her - I felt like I was betraying her as I stepped outside. She kept all the black students safely inside. I didn’t stop to ask her whom she she feared more – the protestors or the police – because her answer seemed obvious…
This week, in downtown Los Angeles, I came upon another protest. The participants were mainly black and Hispanic. Most carried a cardboard sign in the shape of a coffin with the name of someone who had been killed in officer-involved violence. Most heart-breaking were two, very young girls carrying signs that said “Justice for my Daddy.” The police calmly cleared the way for the protesters to continue down the street, some nodding along to the drum beat, passersby watched, some joined in the chanting…and not a single person asked why they were protesting.
I’ve been thinking back to that December night in Chicago, when I was too shocked to answer the guy who asked, “What’s the point of this?” But I have an answer now: The protest I saw five months later in Los Angeles. That was the point.