Black Lives Matter
When the police officers take an oath they promise to protect and serve the community. We are taught that the police officers are there to protect us from harm, but who do we turn to when the police are the ones harming us? The past year , there has been an increase in police involved shootings where many citizens, who are unarmed, are injured by the officers. Based on current research, these acts of violence involve citizens who are also African American. In this paper, I will discuss how African American males are historically targets of these senseless acts.
Before New Year’s day in 2009, a black man name Oscar Grant was killed by a officer name Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California. Mehserle and several other officers responded to a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit. The officers caught Grant and his friends from the train. While Grant was lying face down, Mehserle and another officer were restraining Grant. Because Mehserle was unable to remove Grant’s arm from under his body in order to handcuff him, Mehserle drew his pistol and shot Grant once in the back(Centuries of Rage,2016). During this incident, many people recorded what was happening up until Grant, who was unarmed, was shot. Officer Mehserle resigned from his position and pleaded not guilty during an investigation into the shooting. Later that year, Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter(Centuries of Rage,2016). This case shows that the officer had no reason to kill Grant; he only shot him because he was unable to remove his arm to be handcuffed. The public and the jury had a video to show what happened during the officer’s interaction with Grant, but yet only charged the police officer with involuntary manslaughter. According to the Washington Post, it stated that all violent crimes in 2009 where someone was charged, black Americans were charged 62 percent of the time, compared to other races. Additionally, 57 percent of murders and 45 percent of assaults in the country were identified as crimes committed by African Americans.
In the year of 2014 , an African American boy named Tamir Rice was shot by a police officer. Two officers on November 22,2014 named Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback responded to a call that a young black boy was sitting on a swing and pointing a gun at people. However, the call also stated that the “gun” might have been fake and believed that Rice might be a juvenile that is doing this(Clevel, 2016). When both officers arrived on the scene, Loehmann claimed that he saw a black gun on the table and the young boy put it in his waistband. Both officers told Rice to put his hands up, but they both stated that Rice reached into his waistband and pulled out the gun. Due to this observation by the officers, Loehmann began to shoot. Later, a video was released and in the video you can see that Rice wasn’t threatening the officers verbally or physically. Loehmann started to shoot as soon as he arrived on the scene. The gun that they stated Rice had was a Airsoft,which is known to be an air gun which was designed to shoot non-lethal plastic pellets and has a safety tip on it. Loehmann shot Rice in the torso. Rice had injuries in his major vessels, intestines, and the pelvis(Clevel, 2016). In this case, both of the officers were placed on leave with pay, but the grand jury decided to dismiss all the charges against each officer. This case shows that even if the city had a video that showed that the officers killed Tamir Rice for no reason, the justice system would dismiss the case, which seems unfair. This caused many people to protest all over the world and make African Americans as a whole stand together to work toward peace.
In the year 2015, Freddie Gray, Jr. was arrested by the Baltimore Police Department for possessing what the police thought was an illegal switchblade. BBC News states that While Gray was being transported in a police van, he fell into a coma, and later died . When the doctor described Gray’s death, he stated that there were injuries to his spinal cord. During this, witnesses to this interaction were recording the whole event. The video showed Gray screaming as the officers were dragging him to the police van. Those witnessing Gray’s arrest saw one officer bending Gray’s legs backwards, and another holding him down with the officer’s knee pressing into Gray’s neck(News, BBC,2016). Each of the officers who were involved in this case were not charged with his death. This made the African American community protest until the verdict changed because the evidence showed a video and that the van that held Gray stopped three times before taking him to the hospital, plus you even had two witnesses stating that they saw what the officer was doing to him and the only consequences they got was suspension with pay. A Washington Post article stated that in 2015, there was a real-time database to track fatal police shootings. In 2015, 1,502 people had been shot and killed by a on-duty police officer. It was reported that 382 of these murders were of African Americans and 732 were white. Police have shot and killed 175 young black men from ages 18 to 29 since January 2015. Reports also showed that police shot and killed 172 young white men, 18 of whom were unarmed. This data shows that in terms of police related shootings, majority of the victims are African American men (some of whom are unarmed(Lowery, Wesley,2016).
Philando Castile was shot by officer Jeronimo Yanez on July 6, 2016. Castile was driving in the car with his girlfriend Diamond Reynold and her daughter when being asked to pull over. When officer Yanez asked for Castile’s license and registration, Castile told the officer that he had a license to carry a weapon that was in his pocket during this time. Castile was shot seven times while reaching for his ID after telling Officer Yanez he had a gun permit and was armed. Castile’s girlfriend (who was in the car with him) recorded the incident and put it online(5). Yanez was charged with three felonies. In this case, justice was served with the officer being charged for a crime that he did with evidence including a video that aired immediately after it happened. Officer Yanez didn’t have a reason to kill Castile; once he saw Castile reaching for his ID, he reacted by shooting him. Castile girlfriend also stated that the other officers who were on scene didn’t check Castile as he was slumped over on the chair, they automatically comforted Officer Yanez who was crying after he realized what he had done(Ellis, 2016).
“Black Lives Matter” was a nonviolent movement created because of the the racism and killings that African Americans faced This movement was created by a group of African Americans after the killing of the teenager Treyvon Martian. Over the past couple of years there has been a dramatic increase of police brutality. We know that the police are supposed to protect us, not to kill us. This movement helps African Americans to seek out for help in a non violent way by protecting and marching until justice is serve for our people. This has been a major problem in today’s society and in the African American community. African American males are more of a target than the females. Because of the increase of African American killings, there is no cause for fear within the community.
Not only are African American males a target, but the African American females are too. For example, Sandra Bland was killed by a police officer while incarcerated. Bland was pulled over because she failed to signal when she was changing lanes. In the dashcam video, it shows that when the officer first pulled her over and was telling her to get out the car, he was being aggressive. Her death was mysterious because she only spent three nights in jail and was alive during booking, but she then suddenly died in police custody(Bult,2016). According to CNN News , the video that was showed was of her dead in what was supposed to be mugshot that was placed next to the mugshot she took when she first arrived at the jail. When the case went to trial, the officer who pulled her over and the other officer in the jail were put on trial. There was evidence against each of the officers, but when it came to determining whether or not the officers would be found guilty or innocent, the court found the officers to be innocent and they were allowed to go back to work. This was another incident that made the African American community outraged and riots started to break out worldwide because of the decision that was made, even with the evidence they had. That’s where the Black Lives Matter movement came about because they understood that people are upset, but that starting riots would not make this go away. The Black Lives Matter movement made people understand that the justice system is unfair, but we have to remain together in order to stand strong.
In conclusion, unarmed African Americans are more likely to be killed by a police officer and police officers are more likely to not be charged with any crime, even with evidence against them. Overall, police shootings of African Americans have increased, just from 2009 to 2016. According to International Business Times, a five-year study reported “ 77.7 percent of people killed by officers were men, and 51.51 percent were black men, while 46.3 percent were white , 2.6 percent were of other races , and the races of 130 victims were unknown.” Once again unarmed black men are being targets more than any other race.