The deaths of Philando Castile, in Minneapolis, Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana sparks protests nationwide
Confirming the power of Social media, Diamond Reynolds, broadcast the aftermath of the shooting of her fiancé during a traffic stop regarding a broken tail light. From the video you can hear her telling the officer that he was complying by getting his identification.
Apparently, when he went for his wallet the officer shot him resulting in Philando Castile’s death. As Mr. Castile lay dying, his last breaths were captured by video streaming to Facebook. In addition to Ms. Reynolds their 4 year old child was in the back seat of the vehicle.
Philando Castile, Racially Profiled?
Prior to his death, Philando Castile the 32 year old cafeteria worker was pulled over 52 times in the area having 86 violations most were thrown out in court. He has no record for any crimes. In a study, conducted by the Institute on Race & Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School, the legislature wanted to know if there was racial profiling. The conclusion in part, officers stopped minority drivers at greater rates than whites however more contraband was found in vehicle that had white drivers.
37 year old Alton Sterling was selling CDs early Tuesday outside a local Food Mart in Baton Rouge. According to reports a homeless man approached him and asked for money. Sterling told him to leave him alone and the homeless man called 911. Next, the video from the convenience store owner that appears to the show the suspect subdued, before officers shot him. The Convenience Store video and other video have surfaced showing what appears to be an execution. Federal authorities have taken charge of the investigation.
Without traditional leadership protests sprung up across the nation, at least 17 cities were sites of protests against recent police shooting of civilians. The protests were peaceful with local organizers in contact with law enforcement, in some cases very constructive communication was occurring.
In smaller cities like Syracuse, groups like the local chapter of the National Action Network are engaging in dialogue and training citizens on how to respond during a police stop.
Syracuse is not immune
Ironically, what’s happening on the national scene is only mirroring what’s happening in our own community. A Father’s Day incident culminated in a shooting, and charges by police of mob violence against the only officer on the scene.
300 people gathered to celebrate Father’s Day on Otisco Street and out of nowhere mayhem ensued. Shots fired, a man dead and an officer placed on administrative leave. Small protests have occurred outside the Justice Center in downtown Syracuse.
Earlier in the year, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a directive that if an unarmed civilian is shot the case is handled by New York’s Attorney General, taking it away from local officials.
The case was referred back to the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office, since it was discovered by law enforcement officials that the deceased man had a gun at the time of the shooting.
There are many unanswered questions. Why did it take so long to determine that the deceased had a gun? Why wasn’t that information readily available? What has happened to Syracuse’s version of “Community Policing”.
These and many other questions must be faced by the leadership of this community. Are these incidents a result of our crushing poverty? Has our emphasis on attracting wealth to the City of Syracuse come at the expense of possible economic uplift for the poor?
Liquor License Pulled from site of recent Murder
Chief Fowler in responding to a Northside businesswoman, the owner of Transitions 658, about police patrols for their area, “It’s not our responsibility to handle your security.” Armory Square’s security is paid for by special district status, a fund businesses pay into for the added security. This means, unless paid for by special assessment, our most vulnerable commercial centers receive no enhanced patrols.
In a surprise action, on Friday July 8th the New York State Liquor Authority suspended the liquor license of Transitions 658, 658 N. Salina St. The action can be taken if an establishment is deemed a public nuisance; these criteria can be utilized to shut down an operation that generates a disproportionate number of police appearances. Transitions 658, was changed with 12 violations, from employing unlicensed bouncers to the number of assaults on site.
What we have here is a failure to communicate?
Many people in the African-American community are afraid and distrustful of the police, while police appear to dislike the people they’re employed to serve and protect. Syracuse Common Council President, Van Robinson spoke about the need for increased Community Policing, a call that was echoed by Syracuse/Onondaga County NAACP President, Wayne Dunham. Perhaps, what we have here is a failure to communicate.
Until the communication dynamic is changed and trust is established, we’ll never stop those who are preying on the Black community with gun violence. Without a change in the way the Syracuse Police department communicates with the Syracuse African-American community, they’ll seem more like occupiers than enforcers of the law.