By Valerie D. Lockhart
SUN EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Sidewalks stained with the blood of Black men brutally beaten and killed by those expected to protect and value life appear across the country.
“It’s hunting season in the U.S., and Black men and boys are the prey,” said Markus Sullivan, of Detroit. “Officers are shooting first. If you’re lucky enough to survive that shot, then they’ll ask questions. It appears to be an all-out war against the Black man.”
Reports of white police officers using excessive force against African Americans is not uncommon.
FBI data reveals that two times a week an African American suspect is killed by a White police officer in the United States, averaging 96 times a year. About 400 deaths are reported to federal authorities by local police departments each year. Of that number, 25 percent were white on Black shootings and 18 percent of Black victims were under 21years old. Contrast to the shooting of young Black suspects, 8.7 percent of white youth were shot by white officers.
A report conducted by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, entitled “Operation Ghetto Storm” in 2012, says the numbers are worse.
It revealed that a Black person was killed by a security officer every 28 hours, in 2012. The report also noted that it's possible that the actual number could be greater.
While the names of the victims and locations may change, the results remain the same – another Black man dead at the hands of a White police officer. Many of the perpetrators walk away with little, if any, repercussions.
“The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has seen this scenario play out time and time again in Detroit and around the country, and we believe that we must move beyond marching and disturbances to craft a thoughtful, programmatic response to this ongoing scourge in the Black community,” said Ron Scott, organization spokesperson. "For more than 16 years, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality has been on the front lines, working with victims of police misconduct, supporting their families, and evolving ways to reduce the need for police intervention with innovations such as our Peace Zones for Life initiative.”
Although the Coalition seeks to establish Peace Zones, others hope to influence the judicial system to successfully prosecute and convict offenders.
Protestors across the county, including Detroit, have marched and staged die-ins to draw attention to the problem.
“I can’t breathe. Don’t shoot,” chanted about two dozen protesters, who gathered near downtown Detroit’s Campus Maritus, in wake of the recent dismissals of murder charges against police officers accused of unjustly killing black men.
While some braved the cold and laid down on the sidewalk to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the ruling, others held up signs that read, “Jalen Matters” and “Homicide” with its definition.
“The crowds of youth coast to coast, standing up - laying down - walking around - demanding justice and an end to a significant part of the power of the State has upset the status quo,” says Maureen D. Taylor, State Chairperson of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. “No faith in the justice system is the message from them all. The outright murder of Blacks throughout the South at the hands of treacherous police personnel spread to all parts of the country with evidence at each killing that the system of equal justice was not possible. Michael, shot multiple times with the bloody body leaking and left out on the streets in summer, Eric, a disabled man wrestled down to the ground, and choked to death on national TV, 12-year-old Tamir, shot and killed in less than 2 seconds after the police arrive on scene, another NY resident coming up the stairs in the building he lived in (was) shot and killed by the police they say by accident, (and) a Northland Mall shopper, also choked to death by security guards again on national TV with no one responsible. Just like we learned during the Rodney King beating that it was ‘his fault’, we learned that it was Michael's fault, Eric's fault, some other's victim fault, and soon we will learn that 12-year-old Tamir and his irresponsible parents are to blame for Tamir's death.”
Members of the Coalition say a plan of action is needed to shift the blame back onto the officer and should include restoring power to the Detroit Police Commission, which monitor police misconduct, to subpoena officers and approve appointments to executive positions. The Commission was established in 1974, following attacks on Black men by members of the Detroit Police Department’s STRESS (Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets) unit. The unit was abolished by then Mayor Coleman A. Young.
The Coalition is also calling for the federal government to enact a zero tolerance policy against police misconduct to reduce incidents and lawsuits filed against the city.
Others call for officers in all municipalities be required to wear body cameras to record all interactions with the public.
“Cameras don’t lie,” said Jessica Williams, of Detroit. “The camera should also have a timer to record the time of each incident. If the officer tries to delete the footage, the camera would detect any tampering.”
As the blood of unarmed Black men and boys continue to be spilled across the country, public outrage call for a stop to the “blacklash”.
“Black men have been subjected to being lashed by white men, since slavery,” said Alfonso Williams. “Instead of whips, today they’re using guns. The justice system apparently doesn’t value Black lives. If a man commits a crime, send him to prison. Don’t give him the death sentence, if the crime doesn’t warrant it. I tell my sons, ‘Watch your back.’ If you don’t, you could become the next victim of blacklash.”