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Rita Sorpranith

on 31 May 2015

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By Rita Sorpranith
A state of emergency was declared once riots broke out in the city of Baltimore, MD after the death of
Freddie Gray
On April 12, 2015 Gray was arrested, shackled and placed in a transport van. By the time the vehicle arrived at the police station (44 minutes later), Gray had sustained severe spinal cord injuries and was unconscious. He died in a coma one week later on April 19.

The six officers responsible were indicted. If these officers are found guilty, it will be a strong step in the direction of justice, not only for minority communities, but for all Americans.
On January 1, 2009,
Oscar Grant
was killed by a single shot to the back by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) officer Johannes Mehserle while laying face down on a train platform filled with witnesses (captured on video above). Grant, along with a group of individuals, were detained after fighting on BART. During the trial Mehserle testified that he meant to use his taser on Grant, but instead pulled his gun. One officer admitted to using racial slurs towards the young men. The trial was moved to Los Angeles because it was alleged that Mehserle couldn’t get a fair trial in the Bay Area. He received a two-year prison sentence but was released after serving only 11 months behind bars since his July 8th conviction.
On February 26, 2012, 17 year-old
Trayvon Martin
was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman's relentless pursuit of Martin driven by his assumptions and stereo types of black males in hooded sweatshirts would lead to the teenager's death. Zimmerman got out of the car with a gun on his waist, disregarding a police dispatcher’s advice not to follow Martin, chased the teenager, engaged in a fight and shot him in the heart. Zimmerman stated he shot Martin in self-defense after the teenager knocked him to the ground, punched him and slammed his head repeatedly against the sidewalk.
On July 14, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges. There are still speculations of the Sanford Police Department covering up evidence as well as making a series of missteps during the investigation including failing to properly shield the crime scene from rain and not testing Zimmerman for drugs or alcohol.
On August 9, 2014, Officer Darren Wilson pursues 18 year-old
Michael Brown
and a friend as they walk down a street. Brown is shot to death as a result of the encounter. One witness claimed that Brown, "turned around and put his hands up, and the officer continued to walk up on him and shoot him until he goes all the way down to the ground.”
On March 4, 2015 a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson police Officer Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown sparking riots around the country. In Ferguson, protesters charged barricades, hurling glass bottles, police responded with smoke and tear gas. Thousands of people also protested in other US cities, from Los Angeles to New York. In Oakland, California, they blocked traffic on a major highway in the San Francisco Bay area. Witness accounts backed up the officer’s claims that Brown reached into the police SUV, punched Wilson and attempted to grab Wilson’s firearm, prompting Wilson to fire his gun. The report did note that some witnesses rebutted this version of events (video), but said their limited visual view of the shooting undermined their claims. A recent investigation found that the Ferguson Police Department was engaged in a pattern of racially biased enforcement during suspect stops and used unreasonable force against a disproportionate number of African American suspects.
"A riot is the language of the unheard"
- Martin Luther King Jr.
One year later...
Los Angeles, CA (continued)
On March 3, 1991,
Rodney King
was stopped for a traffic violation by the Los Angeles Police Department. During the arrest, King was struck over fifty times with police batons and subdued with taser guns. The video (above) was videotaped by a witness and aired on several local stations and made its way to commercial news networks nationwide. In the following week, officers involved in the arrest were indicted for the use of excessive force and assault with a deadly weapon.
King's civil suit began in February of 1993. In April of 1993, a federal jury convicted two officers on one charge of violating King's civil rights. The jury awarded King with $3.8 million in damages.
On April 29, 1992, the officers were acquitted of the charges sparking immediate civic unrest in the city of Los Angeles. Looters and protestors set ablaze several businesses in the area. After 2 days of social unrest, a local state of emergency was declared; the President of the U.S. sent federal troops and riot-trained federal law officers into Los Angeles. King took to a media outlet and made a public plea that the city halt their clash with the police.
2014 was a year that saw profound injustice, and extraordinary resilience. Homicides at the hands of police sparked massive protests, meaning that America could no longer ignore bitter truths of the Black experience. Gabriella Naverez, a queer Black woman was killed at 22 years old, unarmed. 37 year old Tanisha Anderson’s family dialed 911 for medical assistance. Instead, Cleveland police officers took her life. Anyia Parker, a Black trans woman was gunned down in East Hollywood. This brutal attack was caught on camera, yet her murder, like so many murders of Black trans women, have gone unanswered. This country must abandon the lie that the deep psychological wounds of slavery, racism and structural oppression are figments of the Black imagination. The time to address these wounds is now.
- Black Lives Matter website
Staten Island, NY
"Rest in Peace to Michael Brown and to every young black man murdered in America, whether by the hands of white or black. I pray that one day the world will be filled with peace and rid of injustice. Only then will we all Be Free."
- Jermaine Cole
Detroit, MI
On May 16, 2010, 7-year-old
Aiyana Stanley-Jones
was shot dead while in the arms of her grandmother by a Detroit Police Officer during a night police raid that was filmed for A&E's reality crime TV show,
The First 48
. The assembled SWAT team threw a flash-bang grenade through the window of the lower unit and kicked open its wooden door. The grenade landed so close to Aiyana that it burned her blanket. The officer, Joseph Weekley, fired a single shot that struck Aiyana in the head and exited through her neck. Compounding the tragedy is the fact that the police threw the grenade into the wrong apartment.

Weekley blamed the grandmother for his "misfire" in stating that she, "pushed the gun down as he pulled the trigger." She denied grabbing the weapon. Juries failed twice to reach a verdict in Weekley’s case, first in June 2013 and then in October 2014. In October, judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway dismissed a charge of involuntary manslaughter, citing a lack of evidence. In January of 2015, judge Hathaway dismissed a lesser second charge of reckless use of a firearm.
The topic of
Black Lives Matter
has invoked many to argue that not only do black lives matter, but all lives matter. This rebuttal holds true, but they fail to understand that once
becomes a recurring trend for one specific minority group, it sends the message that some lives are not as valuable as others. For all lives to matter, we must hold each life
to the next, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, etc. The events that I have brought to attention are only a glimpse into the

that is taking place
. Too many innocent lives have been taken and nothing is being done about it so it is important that we continue to give voice to those killed in racially charged incidents at the hands of police and others. These unnecessary deaths are only increasing the divide that already exists between law enforcement and citizens,
and whites. We cannot sit back as if we do not see what is happening and watch history continue to repeat itself.
starts now.
On July 17th, 2014,
Eric Garner
died after Officer Daniel Pantaleo and other officers tried to arrest Garner, who they said was suspected of illegally selling cigarettes. In the video (above) videotaped by a witness, a cluster of officers, including Pantaleo, are seen kneeling on Garner’s back and pressing his face, mouth and nose to the pavement as he lay face down, hands cuffed behind him, pleading 11 times, “I can’t breathe” before suffering fatal cardiac arrest. The video also shows Pantaleo wrapping his arm around Garner's neck (chokehold). A medical examiner ruled the death a homicide. A New York grand jury declined to press criminal charges and grand jury records were sealed, setting off nationwide protests.
Athletes, actors, musicians and college basketball players joined in on the movement by wearing I can't breathe t-shirts as well as holding their hands up in the "don't shoot" position during warm-ups. A rebuttal shirt that reads "I can breathe" appeared supporting the NYPD while also mocking a dying man's cry for help.
"A lot of people want to say racism is over with and that we are past that. But, time doesn't make everything disappear. Ignoring the fact that you have cancer is not going to stop you from having cancer. And, racism is like a cancer that people have been ignoring."
- Nathan Burns
Works Cited
1. Alvarez, Lizette, and Cara Buckley. "Zimmerman Is Acquitted in Trayvon Martin Killing." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 July 2013. Web. 11 May 2015.
2. Balko, Radley. "Some Thoughts on Eric Garner." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 11 May 2015.
3. Bernard, Tanya Lucia. "All #BlackLivesMatter. This Is Not a Moment, but a Movement." Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter, 2012. Web. 26 Apr. 2015.
4. Brown, Compiled By Emily. "Timeline: Michael Brown Shooting in Ferguson, Mo." USA Today. Gannett, 02 Dec. 2014. Web. 11 May 2015.
5. Cevallos, Danny. "Freddie Gray Case: The Legal Issues." CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Apr. 2015. Web. 11 May 2015.
6. Cole, Jermaine. Be Free. J. Cole. 2014. MP3.
7. Crimesider Staff. "Aiyana Stanley-Jones Case: Final Charge Dropped against Detroit Cop in Fatal Raid." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 30 Jan. 2015. Web. 21 May 2015.
8. "Enough Is Enough": Tens of Thousands March to Protest Police Violence." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 14 Dec. 2014. Web. 21 May 2015.
9. Fraley, Malaika. "Oscar Grant Trial: BART Officer Testifies She Didn't Threaten Friends with Taser." - San Jose Mercury News. San Jose Mercury News, 16 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 May 2015.
10. Johnson, Kevin. "DOJ: Ferguson PD Engaged in Racially Biased Policing." 10NEWS. USA TODAY, 3 Mar. 2015. Web. 11 May 2015.
11. Kovaleski, Serge F. "Trayvon Martin Case Shadowed by Series of Police Missteps." The New York Times. The New York Times, 16 May 2012. Web. 11 May 2015.
12. LaDuff, Charlie. "What Killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones?" Mother Jones. Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress, Nov.-Dec. 2010. Web. 21 May 2015.
13. "The Legacy of Rodney King." PBS. PBS, 1995-2014. Web. 5 May 2015.
"NAACP Denounces Verdict of Oscar Grant Case." NAACP.org. NAACP, n.d. Web. 5 May 2015.
14. Pearson, Michael. "Will the Eric Garner Case Change Things?" CNN. Cable News Network, 9 Dec. 2014. Web. 11 May 2015.
15. Samad, Jewel. "NY Judge Asked to Release Grand Jury Records in Eric Garner Case." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 2 May 2015.
16. Shoichet, Catherine E. "Freddie Gray Death: Grand Jury Indicts Police Officers." CNN. Cable News Network, 21 May 2015. Web. 24 May 2015
Full transcript