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    ‘Voices from the Bayou’ pulls powerful, emotional writing from BRCC students

    When Baton Rouge Community College professor Clarence Nero and his teaching colleagues walked into their classrooms for the first time after the tumultuous summer of 2016—a summer that in Baton Rouge had seen the murders of Alton Sterling and innocent police officers as well as historic flood—they had no idea what to expect from students.

    This wasn’t any ordinary semester at Baton Rouge Community College. Many enrolled students had lost their homes due to flooding; most were still reeling from the shootings and the subsequent protests and riots that rocked the capital city. There were students who had been traumatized in ways that defied simple explanations.

    Not only did Nero understand that they were in pain—he had lived with and through the same hellish nightmare that summer—he was determined to let them give expression to their experiences and reactions. Having seen this type of racial tension fuel students’ creativity in the film “Freedom Writers,” based on actual classroom experiences of Erin Gruwell, Nero showed the movie to students in his English classes.voices from the bayou

    The result was an instant connection: the diverse women and men in Nero’s classes identified with the students in Gruwell’s class who had shared stories of frustration and pain growing up in racially hostile, violent communities in South Central Los Angeles.

    Before long, students were sharing their own stories, too, writing narratives and engaging in intense conversations in the classroom around race in south Louisiana. The idea caught on around the college; other professors similarly challenged their students, and the school’s Creative Writing Club members joined in the effort. Students who had begun the semester in varying states of distress were writing powerful and unforgettable accounts of their shared experiences coming of age in the South.

    Voices from the Bayou was born: a collection of heartwarming and heartbreaking narratives told by college students who bravely put it all on the line during a time when our country is most divided, after a contentious presidential election. Their courageous stories of dealing with racism, the police, and the flood in Baton Rouge will leave an indelible impression, reminding readers that our young people are ever watching and their voices must be heard and studied for peace and humanity’s survival.

    The BRCC Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, nonprofit, has generously aided in the publication of this collection of student narratives. All proceeds from sales of this book will go towards the foundation; in turn, the foundation will help the students who participated in this project continue their education, will assist BRCC faculty with professional development, will facilitate student programming at the college and at literary events for high school students, and will provide scholarship funding for future BRCC students.

    ONLINE: MYBRCC.edu/foundation

     

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    Broome sends letter to Sterling’s attorneys

    Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome has responded to a letter emailed May 24, 2017, by attorneys for family members of Alton Sterling:

    Dear Attorneys Stewart, Bamberg, Decuir and Adams:

    First and foremost, I want the Sterling family to know I have never stopped praying for them. However, I know — like Scripture tells us so frequently — faith must be combined with action.

    Be assured, I have been consistently seeking an expedited resolution to the investigations into Mr. Sterling’s death, and calling for disciplinary actions against Baton Rouge Police Department officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II. I have advised Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. of my concerns regarding the employment status of these officers. I believe they should be removed from paid administrative leave and disciplined consistent with the severity of their actions. In Officer Salamoni’s case, this warrants termination. I will be following up with a hand-delivered letter to the chief stating such. The images on the video seen around the world and additional information detailing Officer Salamoni’s actions are both disturbing and reprehensible. I understand the outrage of the Sterling family and our community.

    While I do not have the direct authority to terminate these officers, Chief Dabadie does. According to revised statutes for municipality fire and police departments in Louisiana, the chief has appointing and disciplinary authority. I understand and respect the need for fairness and due process, but the process has gotten us here.

    The chief’s next steps are important to not only the Sterling family and this community, but also to this police department that I fully respect and appreciate. As you stated in your letter, “… not all officers in the BRPD conduct themselves in the same manner as Officer Salamoni.”

    Again, I have been working and will continue to do everything in my power to ensure fairness and justice for all citizens of Baton Rouge.

    Sincerely,
    Sharon Weston Broome
    Mayor-President

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    ‘I am that next legacy’

    When Cameron Sterling speaks, the nation watches. In July of 2016, he grabbed the attention of protestors, political leaders, television programs, and the President of the United States with his determined words of peace and quiet demeanor. The 16-year-old admonished protestors to stay peaceful and he explained to the world why his father’s life and those lives of other unarmed, Black men killed by police were valuable. 

    On May 3, Baton Rouge watched Cameron, again, with anticipation when he stepped up to the microphone for another press conference.  His family and local officials met with the U.S Department of Justice attorneys who were investigating the July 5, 2016, shooting death of his father, Alton Sterling, by two Baton Rouge police officers.

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    Alton Sterling

    To the world watching, the soft-spoken young man said, “Everyday, I wake up and miss my dad, and everyday God is with us,” he said with assurance. “No matter what goes on behind those closed doors in that court; it doesn’t matter…God is there for me. I have my brothers and sisters to look after—11 of them. But guess what, I am that next legacy. I am here after my dad.”

    He paused. His voice was steady. “God is with me. God is with all of us.” 

    His calmness was met by the family’s attorney Chris Stewart who said, “We didn’t leave the meeting defeated…We will not let rage run. It is not over! The family walked away after assuring the community that “the fight for justice would not be stopped by the DOJ inaction.”

    Questions quickly rose asking what would justice look like. 

    Justice would be having these officers fired and the state of Louisiana charge them with murder or second-degree murder. However, according the Urban League of Louisiana, charges are filed in only one percent of fatal shootings involving police.

    “There simply is not enough sufficient evidence to proceed,” said acting US Attorney Corey Amundson, but he also said the officer’s behavior—although reckless—may have been in violation of state code which Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office would have to determine. Amundson said use of force experts reviewed the case against BRPD officers Blaine Salamoni and Howie Lake II and, although they criticized the officers’ techniques, the experts still determined they could not prove that the officers behaved unreasonably and willfully. 

    “Being reckless is not a basis under the law for a federal civil rights prosecution,” Amundson said. Other attorneys said the officers’ use of force was beyond reasonable. 

    “They (DOJ officials) hands down agreed that the action of the police officers that night were outrageous were inappropriate, were not following procedure, were unexplainable but that meets the threashold of the attorney generals office which is where this case is going,” Stewart said, “In my opinion attorney general Jeff Landry has a phenomenal case against these officers. Not strong, phenomenal case. There can’t be any inaction from Jeff Landry. If you follow his history, he tries to do the right thing.” 

    Stewart said they learned in the meeting that Salamoni pointed a gun to Sterling’s head and said, “I will kill you, b***h.” 

    “We heard from them that Officer Salamoni kept instigating the situation,” Stewart said. “No police officer should conduct themselves like that…We demand that the A.G. proves that the department here has a higher standard and disapproves of the actions of the officers on that day.” He said, pointing out that Landry had persecuted other officers for excessive force earlier this year.

    The Sterling case has been turned over to the Landry’s office who will evaluate all evidence, interview witnesses, and conduct internal investigation of the BRPD. 

    State Rep. Edward  Ted James has sent letters to Landry asking him to appoint a special prosecutor. In the 10-month span, U.S. District Attorney Walt Green resigned at the request of the Trump Administration and Louisiana State Police head Mike Edmundson retired. 

    Their involvement in the investigation is unknown.

    “We are a long way away from getting this resolved,” said Baton Rouge NAACP president Mike McClanahan. “We have got to stay vigilant; we have got to stay in constant pursuit of justice.”

    According to Fatal Encounters, a national project documenting the number of deaths following incidents with police, 451 people had been killed by police since 2003. 

    Alexandria journalist Tony Brown, has record 13 incidents since 2003 where Black men who were unarmed were killed during incidents with local police. To him, the DOJ’s response is a pattern of systemic decision protect officers over innocent, nonviolent citizens. “This would turn out differently if the officers had been Black and the victims white,” Brown said. 

    For 13 years, he has been a central contact for the families of victims and has used his morning talk show “Eyes Open with Tony Brown” to vet emotions and get facts around 

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    Tony Brown

    incidents with police. 

    “It keeps boiling down to the officer’s use of force and whether or not they value that person’s life. We have to remember that the premise of use of force is buried in a system that thrives on inequality. Racial inequality predominately,” he said.

    “What these officers did to Mr. Sterling was provocative to say the least and they should be prosecuted,” “Unfortunately, we in Louisiana have seen officers walk away too many times even when they are blatantly violent towards citizens,” Brown said, referring to his list of victims. “We can not forget the history here,” he said. According to Brown’s records, these unarmed Black men have died in Louisiana: 

    • Marquise Hudspeth, 25, March 15, 2003, in Shreveport. 
    • Edward Ned Jr, 48, Nov. 11, 2004, in Lake Charles.
    • George Temple II, 24,  Feb.17, 2006, in Baton Rouge
    • Baron “Scooter” Pikes Jr, 21,  Jan. 17, 2008, in Winnfield.
    • Bernard Monroe Sr, 72, Feb. 20, 2009, in Homer.
    • Richard Goss, 36,  Nov. 26, 2008, in Alexandria
    • Harold Phillips, 54, July 2009, in Colfax 
    • Robert Ricks, 23, Feb. 5, 2011, in Alexadnria. 
    • Victor White III, 22, March 3, 2014, in New Iberia
    • Cameron Tillman, 14, Feb, 23, in Houma
    • Keenan Ardoin, 24, Dec. 4, 2014, in Ville Platte. 
    • Michael Noel, 32, Dec 21, 2015 in St. Martin

    “All of the victims were Black, all were unarmed, all were killed by police,” Brown said, who reported exclusively on six of these killings.

    “With the exception of the Harold Phillips murder in Colfax, all of the killer cops were exonerated. No charges were filed,” said Brown .

    Alton Sterling, 37, was shot six times at close range while held down on the ground by two Baton Rouge police officers. Sterling was selling CDs in front of a convenience store. Police were calledby someone reporting that a man was selling CDs and threatening people with a gun. Although the store manager said he did not see a gun, the officers shouted “gun” before killing Sterling.

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate
     

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    We can not give in ‘to feelings of impotent rage,’ 100 Black Men say

    Through its president Michael Victorian, The 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge released the following statement Thursday morning following the U.S. Justice Department decision on the Alton Sterling case on May 3

    Baton Rouge (LA) Alton Sterling’s death is a tragedy. It is compounded further by the Justice Department’s decision not to bring charges against the officers involved in his death. We respect Alton’s life and mourn the loss to his family and friends. We also state, categorically, that Mr. Sterling’s life mattered. The lives of the young African-American men and women who we mentor, matter and 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge will continue to do everything within its power to help young people reach their full potential. The systematic conditions that led to Mr. Sterling’s tragic death must be met head on with love, compassion, and an unwavering determination to help make all of our communities safe and economically vibrant.

    We recognize that the findings released on yesterday are frustrating. However, we urge all people of goodwill to use this moment as a call for greater and more meaningful engagement. It is meaningful and constructive to vent, protest, and fully engage in the democratic process. However, we cannot give in, though, to feelings of impotent rage through acts of violence.  Such action will only endanger our community.

    We call on those who wish to improve the lives of people here at the corner of Fairfield and N. Foster Drive (Baton Rouge, LA) to get directly involved in dismantling injustice. Furthermore, we applaud the leadership of our East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome who early in her administration took steps to execute much needed reforms to the Baton Rouge Police Department, including these five policy changes:

    1.      Officers are required to give a verbal warning, before using deadly force, except where there are exigent circumstances.

    2.      Officers are required to de-escalate situations, when possible, before using force.  De-escalation strategies include disengagement, area containment, waiting out a subject, summoning reinforcements, calling in specialized units or employing other strategies.

    3.      Officers will not employ chokeholds or strangleholds, except in emergency circumstances where it is immediately necessary to use deadly force and the authorized weapons are inoperable, inaccessible or otherwise not available.

    4.      Officers are prohibited from discharging a firearm at a moving vehicle unless the vehicle or the persons within the vehicle pose an immediate deadly threat to others.

    5.      Officers will be required to intervene to prevent another officer from using excessive force and to immediately report when they observe the use of excessive force by another officer

    In order for these policies to have their intended effect, the Baton Rouge Police Department and its leadership must take active measures to ensure that those officers that do not comply with these policies will face serious significant discipline

    The 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge is committed to continuing to engage our youth and families to strengthen our community. We hope that area citizens will answer this call to a crisis and set an example to the nation and the world as they watch.

    One Hundred Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge, LTD. is a non-profit organization through which African-American males step forward and assume roles of community leadership, responsibility, and guidance.  Michael Victorian currently serves as the president and chairman of the board.

     

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    Congressman Graves: ‘this decision should have been issued sooner’

     Congressman Garret Graves (R – Baton Rouge) released the following statement today regarding the Department of Justice’s Alton Sterling decision:

     We cannot allow the tragic shootings of 2016 or the fallout to define us or our community, but we can learn from those experiences.

    All loss of life is tragic.  We’ve already lost Deputy Brad Garafola, Officer Matthew Gerald, Officer Montrell Jackson and Alton Sterling.  Deputy Nick Tullier is an amazing warrior overcoming all obstacles, but his life is forever changed and Deputy Bruce Simmons continues to recover from being shot.  Nothing good has resulted from these shootings.  Right or wrong, each loss represents a loved one, a friend, a confident, a husband, a community member – a life or part of life suddenly, prematurely, and in many cases, senselessly taken.

    The abundant evidence in this case –video footage, eyewitness accounts and other sources – faced the extensive scrutiny of both President Obama’s Department of Justice and the current Administration’s. Due to the prolific evidence, this decision should have been issued sooner; however, we trust that this decision is the product of a meticulous and fair investigation.

    The Capital Region has endured tremendous hardship – this tragedy, an ambush attack on law enforcement, historical flooding and the recent fatal shooting of a Baton Rouge Deputy.  We now have two choices:  1) We can come together as a community, be neighbors and lift one another up as we did in the August flood, or 2) We can, once again, go down the path of violence, death and loss.  Only one makes sense.

    I was born and raised in the Baton Rouge area.  What I experienced on July 17 when our officers were shot was unrecognizable.  It was like we were in a foreign country – not home.  An outsider spread his evil and hatred here.  Someone from out of state hijacked our community.  While Baton Rouge has its share of imperfections, we are better than that.

    From here, let’s work with our new mayor to convert the city we have into the city we want. I urge our community to continue to pray for the victims and their families and to pray for peace and understanding.

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    Read the entire Department of Justice statement on the Alton Sterling investigation

    The Justice Department announced on May 3 that the independent federal investigation into the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, found insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges against Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) Officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II. Career prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Middle District of Louisiana and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, along with officials from the FBI and the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, met May 3 with Sterling’s family and their representatives to inform them of the findings of the investigation and the decision.

    Attorney General John Landry said his office will start reviewing the case with state police. Community leaders and organizations–including The Urban League of Louisiana, Together Baton Rouge, Congressman Garrett Graves, The 100 Black Men of Metro Baton Rouge, and others–have released statements surrounding this finding.

    Here’s the complete report from the Department of Justice as presented by acting US attorney Corey R. Amundsen on May 3.

    Overview

    The Department conducted a ten-month, comprehensive, and independent investigation of the events surrounding Sterling’s death. Federal agents and career prosecutors examined evidence from multiple independent sources, including all available footage from police vehicles that responded to the scene and the body-worn cameras from responding officers; cell-phone videos of the incident; interior and exterior surveillance video footage from the store where the shooting occurred; evidence gathered by the BRPD’s crime lab; BRPD documents related to the shooting; personnel files and background material for both involved officers, including prior use-of-force incidents; BRPD policies and training materials; all relevant dispatch recordings between and among local law enforcement, including the originating 911 calls; forensic evidence reports; the autopsy report; photographs of the crime scene; toxicology reports; EMS reports; and extensive additional electronically-stored evidence. As part of the investigation, the FBI laboratory conducted an expert forensic analysis of the video footage capturing the incident between Sterling and the officers. The FBI also interviewed dozens of witnesses, including civilian witnesses who were present at the scene and officers who responded to the scene after the shooting. The Department also consulted with two independent use-of-force experts whom the Civil Rights Division has previously used as government witnesses in criminal prosecutions of civil rights violations.

    Applicable Law

    The Department examined the facts in this case under all relevant federal criminal statutes. The federal criminal statute applicable to these facts is Title 18, United States Code, Section 242, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law. In order to proceed with a prosecution under Section 242, prosecutors must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that a law enforcement officer acted willfully to deprive an individual of a federally protected right. The right implicated in this matter is the Fourth Amendment right to be free from an unreasonable seizure. This right includes the right to be free from unreasonable physical force by police. To prove that a police shooting violated the Fourth Amendment, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the use of force was objectively unreasonable based on all of the surrounding circumstances. The law requires that the reasonableness of an officer’s use of force on an arrestee be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with added perspective of hindsight. The law set forth by the Supreme Court requires that allowances must be made for the fact that law enforcement officers are often forced to make split-second judgments in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving.

    Additionally, to prove that a shooting violated section 242, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers acted willfully. This high legal standard – one of the highest standards of intent imposed by law – requires proof that the officer acted with the specific intent to do something the law forbids. It is not enough to show that the officer made a mistake, acted negligently, acted by accident or mistake, or even exercised bad judgment.

    Although Sterling’s death is tragic, the evidence does not meet these substantial evidentiary requirements. In light of this, and for the reasons explained below, the federal investigation concluded that this matter is not a prosecutable violation of the federal statutes.

    Factual Summary

    While this summary is based on, and consistent with, all facts known to the government after a thorough investigation, it does not include or discuss all facts known to federal law enforcement officials or gathered through this investigation. Many of the facts gathered through the federal investigation are not permitted to be disclosed, and other particularly sensitive facts and evidence are not being disclosed in order to protect the integrity of the State Attorney General’s inquiry into whether any state statutes were violated.

    The investigation revealed that at approximately 12:30 a.m. on July 5, 2016, an individual called 911 from a location near the Triple S Food Mart (“Triple S”) and reported that he had been threatened outside of a store by a black man wearing a red shirt and selling CDs. The caller reported that the man had pulled out a gun and had the gun in his pocket. The caller’s first call disconnected, but he called back a few moments later and reiterated his report. Dispatch relayed that information to Officers Lake and Salamoni, who responded to the Triple S, where they saw Sterling, wearing a red shirt and standing by a table with a stack of CDs.

    The subsequent exchange between Sterling and the officers happened very quickly, with the events – from the officers’ initial approach to a struggle on the ground to the shooting – happening in rapid succession. From the moment when Officer Lake gave his first order to Sterling, through the firing of the final shot, the entire encounter lasted less than 90 seconds. More specifically, from the start of the officers’ physical struggle with Sterling on the ground, through the firing of the final shot, the encounter lasted less than 30 seconds.

    Multiple videos captured portions or the entirety of the officers’ interaction with Sterling. These include cell-phone videos, surveillance video from the store, and video from the officers’ body cameras and a police vehicle. FBI video forensic experts also provided enhancements of relevant videos for the portion of the struggle that immediately preceded the shooting.

    The videos show the officers as they arrived on scene and engaged with Sterling. The videos show that the officers directed Sterling to put his hands on the hood of a car. When Sterling did not comply, the officers placed their hands on Sterling, and he struggled with the officers. Officer Salamoni then pulled out his gun and pointed it at Sterling’s head, at which point Sterling placed his hands on the hood. After Sterling briefly attempted to move his hands from the hood, Officer Lake then used a Taser on Sterling, who fell to his knees, but then began to get back up. The officers ordered him to get down, and Officer Lake attempted unsuccessfully to use his Taser on Sterling again. Officer Salamoni holstered his weapon, and then tackled Sterling; both went to the ground, with Officer Salamoni on top of Sterling, who was on his back with his right hand and shoulder partially under the hood of a car. Officer Lake joined them on the ground, kneeling on Sterling’s left arm while Officer Salamoni attempted to gain control over Sterling’s right arm. Officer Salamoni then yelled, “Going for his pocket. He’s got a gun! Gun!” Officer Salamoni then unsuccessfully attempted to gain control of Sterling’s right hand, while Officer Lake drew his weapon and yelled at Sterling, again directing him not to move. Less than one second later, during a point at which the location of Sterling’s right hand was not visible to the cameras, Officer Salamoni again yelled that Sterling was “going for the gun!” Officer Salamoni then fired three shots into Sterling’s chest.

    After the first three shots were fired, Officer Salamoni rolled onto on his back, facing Sterling’s back, with his weapon still drawn. Officer Lake stood behind both of them with his weapon drawn and pointed at Sterling. Sterling began to sit up and roll to his left, with his back to the officers. Sterling brought his right arm across his body toward the ground, and Officer Lake yelled at Sterling to “get on the ground.” As Sterling continued to move, Officer Salamoni fired three more rounds into Sterling’s back. Within a few seconds, Officer Lake reached into Sterling’s right pocket and pulled out a .38 caliber revolver. Investigators later confirmed that Sterling’s gun was loaded with six bullets at the time of this exchange.

    Following the shooting, Officers Salamoni and Lake each provided a detailed statement offering his version of how and why this shooting happened. According to the officers, Sterling was large and very strong, and from the very beginning resisted their commands. The officers reported that they responded with multiple different compliance techniques and that Sterling resisted the entire time. Both officers reported that when they were on the ground, they saw Sterling’s right hand in his pocket, with his hand on a gun. Officer Salamoni reported that he saw the gun coming out and attempted to grab it, but Sterling jerked away and attempted to grab the gun again. Officer Salamoni then saw “silver” and knew that he had seen a gun, so he began firing. Both officers reported that after the first three shots, they believed that Sterling was attempting to reach into his right pocket again, so Officer Salamoni fired three more times into Sterling’s back.

    Discussion

    In light of the officers’ explanations of the shooting, the government, in order to prove a Fourth Amendment violation, would be required to (1) disprove the officers’ accounts, (2) prove an alternative account that demonstrates that the officers’ actions were objectively unreasonable; and (3) prove that the officers knew that their actions were unreasonable and took them anyway. The evidence in this case is insufficient to bear the heavy burden of proof under federal criminal civil rights law.

    To fully assess whether this shooting constituted an unreasonable use of force, federal investigators closely examined, among other things, all of the evidence concerning the location of Sterling’s right hand prior to the first set of shots. As mentioned, although the videos do not show Sterling’s right hand at the time those shots were fired, they show that Sterling’s right hand was not under Officer Salamoni’s control. The evidence also cannot establish that Sterling was not reaching for a gun when Officer Salamoni yelled that Sterling was doing so.

    Federal investigators interviewed numerous civilian witnesses to determine whether they could provide additional relevant information on the question of whether Sterling reached for a gun.

    Only two witnesses reported to the FBI that they could see Sterling’s right hand, and they indicated that his hand was not in his pocket. However, because of other inconsistencies in their statements, and because of the fact that parts of their accounts are materially contradicted by the videos, their accounts are insufficient to prove the position of Sterling’s right hand/arm beyond a reasonable doubt at the time the shots were fired. Although the Department found no reason to doubt the sincerity of the witnesses’ accounts, this incident happened in an instant, and the witnesses may have had no reason to be specifically watching for the precise location of Sterling’s right hand at the time of the shooting. Given the inconsistencies in the civilian witnesses’ perspectives and recollections and the fact that the video establishes that Officer Salamoni did not have control over Sterling’s right hand just before the shots were fired, the evidence simply cannot establish beyond a reasonable doubt the position of Sterling’s right hand at the exact time of the shooting, a split-second later. The Department therefore cannot disprove the officers’ claim beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The investigators also consulted with two independent, nationally recognized use-of-force experts with whom the Civil Rights Division has previously consulted in civil rights cases. While both experts criticized aspects of the officers’ techniques, they also concluded that the officers’ actions were reasonable under the circumstances and thus met constitutional standards. The experts emphasized that the officers were responding to a call that someone matching Sterling’s description had brandished a weapon and threatened another person; that Sterling was large and strong; and that Sterling was failing to follow orders and was struggling with the officers. The experts noted that the officers also attempted to control Sterling through multiple less-than-lethal techniques before ultimately using lethal force in response to Officer Salamoni’s perception that Sterling was attempting to use a gun.

    The investigators’ review of BRPD files revealed no prior incidents involving substantiated allegations of misconduct by Officers Salamoni or Lake.

    In light of these facts, the evidence gathered during this investigation is insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the use of force leading up to and including the shooting violated the Fourth Amendment.

    The federal investigators also considered whether the evidence proved the distinct statutory element of willfulness. To establish that the officers acted willfully, the government would be required both to disprove the reason the officers gave for the shooting and to affirmatively establish that the officers instead acted with the specific intent to violate Sterling’s rights—meaning that, in shooting Sterling, the officers knew that what they were doing was unreasonable or prohibited, and chose to do it anyway.

    For many of the same reasons described above, the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officers’ actions were a willful violation of the Fourth Amendment. When Officer Salamoni first reported that Sterling was going for the gun, he said, “Going for his pocket, he’s got a gun! Gun!” Significantly, Officer Salamoni did not shoot Sterling at this point, and, instead, attempted to gain control of Sterling’s right hand. Officer Lake also warned Sterling not to move. Seconds later, Officer Salamoni yelled again that Sterling was “going for the gun!” and only then did he fire his own weapon. This evidence suggests that Officer Salamoni fired his weapon when he believed that Sterling was going for his gun a second time, after Officer Lake had warned Sterling not to move. In order to prosecute this matter, the government would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt not only that Sterling was not reaching for his gun, but also that, despite Officer Salamoni’s contemporaneous statements to the contrary, he did not believe that Sterling was reaching for his gun after being warned not to move. The Department lacks the evidence to prove either of those propositions beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The investigators also considered whether Officer Salamoni’s second series of shots was a prosecutable Fourth Amendment violation. Although the videos show that Sterling’s right hand was not in or near his right pocket, Sterling was continuing to move, even after being shot three times and being told again not to move by Officer Lake. Meanwhile, the officers were behind Sterling, and Officer Salamoni was lying on the ground, facing Sterling’s back. Given these circumstances, the evidence cannot establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it did not appear to Officer Salamoni that Sterling was reaching for his pocket. Nor could the Department prove that the officer’s conduct was willful.

    Conclusion

    In sum, after extensive investigation into this tragic event, career Justice Department prosecutors have concluded that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Officers Salamoni and Lake willfully violated Sterling’s civil rights. Given the totality of the circumstances – that the officers had been fighting with Sterling and had attempted less-than-lethal methods of control; that they knew Sterling had a weapon; that Sterling had reportedly brandished a gun at another person; and that Sterling was much larger and stronger than either officer – the Department cannot prove either that the shots were unconstitutional or that they were willful. Moreover, two different, independent experts opined that this shooting was not unreasonable given the circumstances. With respect to the first series of shots, the experts assessed that it was not unreasonable for Officer Salamoni to use lethal force, in light of all of the circumstances referenced above. With respect to the second series of shots, both experts emphasized that officers are trained to eliminate a threat, and that Sterling appeared to pose a threat because he was still moving and his right hand was not visible to Officer Salamoni. Accordingly, the federal investigation into this incident has been closed without prosecution. Federal officials intend to provide the investigative file to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, which intends to conduct its own investigation into whether the conduct at issue in this investigation violated state law.

    In this case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Louisiana, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and the FBI each devoted significant time and resources to investigating the circumstances surrounding Sterling’s death and to completing a thorough analysis of the evidence gathered. The Justice Department remains committed to investigating allegations of excessive force by law enforcement officers and will continue to devote the resources required to ensure that all serious allegations of civil rights violations are thoroughly examined. The Department aggressively prosecutes criminal civil rights violations whenever there is sufficient evidence to do so.

    Civil Rights Division
    Civil Rights – Criminal Section
    Community Relations Service
    Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
    USAO – Louisiana, Middle

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    Urban League supports investigation by Louisiana Attorney General, state police in Alton Sterling case

    The Urban League of Louisiana released this official statement regarding the Alton Sterling decision, May 3:

    The world is watching. Our community is on high alert. Tensions are high. Hearts are broken.  And “justice” continues to evade us. 

    For ten months, the family of Alton Sterling has patiently waited to learn about the fate of Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake, the Baton Rouge Police Department (BRPD) officers involved in their loved one’s murder. Yesterday, the family and the rest of the world learned through an article published by the Washington Post that the officers would face no federal civil rights charges. The Sterling family deserved to be notified directly by the Department of Justice long before this decision became front-page news in a national media outlet.

    Many have become desensitized to police shootings, and do not feign shock when officers are not held accountable.  Instead, it’s chalked up to flaws in the system. However, we must confront the real criminal justice reform that’s needed in this country so that our laws do more to actually provide justice rather than shield those with the greatest responsibility to the public from the law. It is incumbent upon us to give our voices and our votes to the continuing battle for equity and justice.  As the Sterling family said today, the battle is not over; it has only just begun.

    While bitterly disappointing, the DOJ’s announcement comes as no surprise. According to Kelley et. al, (2016) charges are filed in only one percent of fatal shootings involving police. [1] This precedent equates to government sanctioned murder, a status quo the community and the Urban League at large is simply unwilling to accept. So, now all eyes are on Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, who has released a statement announcing that the Louisiana State Police will launch its own investigation into the conduct of the officers and the appointment of a special prosecutor who will determine if officers Salamoni and Lake will face criminal charges by the state. While the Urban League fully supports this step, we will be vigilant in our commitment to ensure that a fair and neutral process is conducted in the pursuit of justice for Alton Sterling, his family, and the city of Baton Rouge. We also encourage the BRPD to examine the conduct of these officers to determine if it meets the expectations of the departments’ standard of professionalism. Based on new details released in today’s press conference by the Sterling family and their attorneys, it appears that there may be grounds for the officers’ termination.

    ULLA is actively involved in advocating for criminal justice reform and is encouraged by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s work to establish new policies within the BRPD regarding use of force guidelines. The League is continuing to pursue its own reform-centered, criminal justice policy agenda, which includes a push for expanded trainings on de-escalation, bias police recognition, crisis intervention, and other pertinent issues.[2] The cost to implement these trainings is far less than the cost of losing a life, settling civil suits, and losing public trust. By providing the law enforcement community with this training, those who are entrusted with securing our public safety will have the tools to execute their role more effectively and safely.  We are also reigniting our call for the establishment of an independent, civilian review board or an independent agency to monitor excessive force complaints, officer-involved shootings and fatal force incidents in East Baton Rouge.

    For the past five months, ULLA staff has convened hundreds of community members including law enforcement officials, youth, young professionals, community leaders and a cadre of African American residents in East Baton Rouge to facilitate dialogues generating community-based solutions to address public safety and community-police relations. The League surveyed approximately 200 East Baton Rouge residents about their perceptions and experiences with police. Over 60% of respondents indicated that police do not treat all citizens equally according to the law, 67% agreed that the police do not make enough contact with residents and about 80% indicated that they want police to partner with community members and groups to solve problems in their communities. The Urban League of Louisiana is committed to working with the community to develop partnerships with law enforcement to bring about the necessary change.

    The world is watching. Our hearts are broken, but our resolve is strong. And we will not stop our fight until the status quo is transformed into justice for all.

    Read more »
  • ,,

    ‘Things get uncomfortable’ when protesters Blackout BR, interrupt policing meeting

    As officer-involved shootings continue to plague cities around the country, frustrated citizens are continuing their fight for justice. With each shooting that has occurred, dash cam footage has been released, surveillance and other forms of film have been released to ensure complete disclosure. But, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case with the deadly shooting of Alton Sterling.

    After nearly three months, only the cell phone videos filmed by spectators has been released. In addition to the withholding of dash cam footage and surveillance, Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II are still on administrative leave. No charges have been brought against the officers and citizens are wondering why. The recent officer-involved shootings that led to the deaths of Philando Castile and Terence Crutcher have resulted in charges brought against the officers. But, law enforcement officials in Baton Rouge have remained silent.

    Now, citizens and protesters are demanding answers. Why has the footage been withheld? Why haven’t the officers been charged? Monday, Sept. 26 was declared #BlackOutBR, a day where local citizens wore black clothes and did not work, go to college, or shop. A rally was held at the steps of City Hall calling for information on the Alton Sterling case.

    BlackOutBR flyer

    After the rally, protesters entered a police reform meeting to hear the committee’s plans and to demand answers and action.

    “The problem is, with an exception of a few, we don’t see these people in the community,” businessman Cleve Dunn Jr. told the committee. “When you look around and you don’t see the community, there should be no meeting.”

    The committee included District Attorney Hillar Moore; councilmembers Tara Wicker, Donna Collins Lewis and Erika Green; BRPD Chief Carl Dabadie Jr; local pastors; and residents. 

    “What happens when leaders & protesters disrupt a meeting on police reform? Things get uncomfortable, they get real, and then they get a seat at the table, alongside the chief of police, the DA, & the DOJ,” wrote artist Walter Geno McLaughlin on Facebook.

    More than 30 protesters lined the walls of the small meeting room, including Sterling’s aunts.

    “We want to press upon our local government but also go all the way to feds that we want a decision on the investigation, said Dunn who explained the reason for the gathering and expressed protesters’ demands. “We are pressing upon the Department of Justice, our mayor, Kip Holden, as well as our Governor… to solicit a timeline of some type of idea of when we can get a decision.”

    “This issue of Alton Sterling has been divested from the people in this room as much as we hate to hear that,” said Will Jorden, who is an assistant district attorney and prosecutor. “We hear the frustration. I am frustrated. These pastors are frustrated. But what this (committee) does is give the people a sense of legitimacy and to be able to move forward with positive change.”

    Wicker said, “This group today is not the group trying to come up with solutions. That’s not our charge. That’s not our job. That’s not what we are doing here. Our charge is to setup an infrastructure so that what you are saying can actually be heard, documented and put into a policy paper that will be submitted as the voice of the community.”

    Several protesters asked the committee for better communication and circulated a paper to add email addresses for future contact. They also presented a list of demands.

    In addition to the demand for a decision in the July 5th shooting, they are requesting that changes be made to city and state flood contracts. The change to contracts would require the cancellation of current contracts in order to include Black-owned firms in renegotiations.

    Community leaders argue that the exclusion of government resources is a strong contributing factor to the financial inequity in the black community. The officer-involved shootings in impoverished areas of the city are also arguably attributed to the lack of economic development.”You cannot prevent an Alton Sterling encounter without economic development in black communities,” the list states.

    The third demand is in reference to police reform. With incidents of alleged injustices resolved with internal investigations, community leaders and local citizens adamantly believe there needs to be a task force in place on state and local law enforcement levels to reform police across the city and state. 

    Here’s the list of demands:
    1. A Decision in the Alton Sterling Case from the Department of Justice.
    We request Mayor Kip Holden and Gov. John Bel Edwards both send letters to President Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting that the DOJ swiftly conclude its investigation. The most powerful government in the world shouldn’t take longer than a district attorney from Tulsa Oklahoma to decide which way to proceed in an investigation, with all the resources at their disposal. Our community deserves to be able to move forward.

    2. Cancel Current State & Local Flood Contracts and Include Black-Owned Firms In Renegotiations. Currently, our state and local government are handing out millions of dollars in contracts relating to flood relief. Black-owned businesses are not reaping from the resources that are on the ground. The exclusion of black-owned companies is one of the primary causes of inequity in our community. You cannot prevent an Alton Sterling encounter without economic development in black communities. Black businesses owners hire black people, giving second chances to people like Mr. Sterling which puts them in our workforce and makes them productive citizens. There should be DBE Mandates equal to the percentage of the population in order to ensure fairness and equity in how our state and local government does business.

    3. Reform Our Police Department
    The murder of Alton Sterling has surfaced issues within our police department that must be addressed. We request a task force convened on a state and local level to reform policing in the city and state. The task force should not just include members of law enforcement and elected official, but local protestors and community advocates who have taken to the streets to oppose the tactics of police departments around the country.

    The list of demands has garnered criticism from local news outlets and citizens with opposing views. Many readers said they believe the demands are far-fetched and argue federal authorities have refrained from filing charges because they haven’t been able to gather enough evidence against the officers involved. But, despite the arguments, the footage is still being withheld, which leads protesters to believe local authorities have something to hide.

    “These demands, especially the first two, are silly. The prosecutor should make a decision only when all the evidence is in. The flood recovery companies should only hire the best companies and people for the job,” wrote writers with The Hayride.

    The question remains: will officers Salamoni and Lake be charged in connection with the shooting death of Sterling? At this point, no one knows what the outcome will be.

    The case is currently still under review by federal authorities. It is still unclear whether charges will be filed against Salamoni and Lake.

    By Meaghan Ellis
    Community Reporter

    Read more »
  • ,

    I Fit the Prototype: large and black. Am I Next?

    It has been more than a week since the viral video revealing the shooting death of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police officers flooded social media timelines. The footage ignited widespread fear of local law enforcement and proved that the nation’s woes were no longer just on television but right in residents’ yards, literally.

    Now with the home front being a national headline, three Baton Rouge men tell their stories of what it is to be the prototype victim for police brutality. As they leave their homes everyday with the notion that they could be “next” just because they are large, Black men.

    Dominique Ricks, a 24-year-old educator from Baton Rouge whose first negative encounter with police occurred when he was 13 years old.

    Officers approached Ricks and a friend who were opposite descriptions of the suspects for whom they were looking. Ricks recalled that his mother came on the scene and told the officers that the two were good kids. Officers responded that they didn’t know if Ricks was a good kid, and they didn’t know if they were talking to an honor student or Saddam Hussein.

    “I’ve always feared interaction with the police,” Ricks said. “Ever since then, I’ve had a certain understanding: they don’t know who I am (and) a lot of times, they don’t care who I am, so it’s best for me to stay in my lane and avoid them.”

    Now at 6-foot-1, 291 pounds, his fears have only heightened as his hometown has become a hashtag.

    “I’m afraid that my son might end up growing up without a father, and it’s not because I’m not going to be a part of his life, but because I might get taken away,” Ricks said.

    But he continued that the Sterling incident did not shock him. He is only happy that it was caught on camera. He said he hopes justice will be served.

    Meet radio and television personality, Tony King, a 36-year-old Houston native who is 6-foot-2, 271 pounds and admittedly has a negative history in the criminal justice system. He said he accepts responsibility for his previous actions and has since turned his life around.

    “That one mistake doesn’t define who and what I am, and it does not take away the value of my life,” King said.

    “There’s a level of humanity that is being missed, and when you have people in the community who refuse to see the humanity in everybody–not just people who look like them–then to me, that’s a problem.”

    King, much like Ricks, hasn’t experienced heightened fear of interactions with police. Instead, King said, he’s always been afraid. “My fear looks the same as it has always been,” King said. “Every time an officer pulls up behind me, my chest tightens.”

    Meet Marcel P. Black, a 32-year-old youth development worker and local emcee from Ardmore, Okla. Black, who considers himself an activist, has lived in Baton Rouge since attending Southern University and A&M College, and has started his family in the city.

    As what is referred to as an underground emcee, Black, who is 6-foot-3, 350 pounds, said many times he has sold CDs in front of establishments. “I could have been Alton Sterling,” Black said. “I wear cargo shorts a lot, I wear red t-shirts a lot. We are about the same skin tone, about the same size. That could have been me.”

    Aside from seeing a mirror image of himself in Sterling, Black also said he believes there is a lack of concern for north Baton Rouge that contributes to residents feeling undervalued and creating a culture of unsafe interactions with law enforcement officials.

    “The city created these conditions in north Baton Rouge,” Black said. “North Baton Rouge is under-funded: no hospitals, no healthcare, no jobs, no access to mental health, no healthy food, and then they want to police it, and you wonder why there is unrest.”

    Black is a facilitator of a conversation group called Black Men Talk. The group meets monthly or as needed to discuss issues relating to Black men, mostly in regards to current events. But it’s just conversation. Black said action must be taken to prevent further unrest.

    “We got work to do. Our lives are different now. Our lives will never, ever be the same,” Black said. “Let’s talk prison reform, let’s talk police reform. We got work to do. Lord willing, we stay mobilized and organized, so we can keep doing this. I want to encourage everybody: this is our fight from here on out.”

    Work to be done is a sentiment that Black shares with national NAACP president Cornell William Brooks. Brooks warns that all work headed towards success in justice must be planned and well-thought-out.

    “We cannot be called upon as a community to serially grieve,” Brooks said. “We have to prevent these horrific videos and hashtags and tragedies from occurring again and again.”

    This month Brooks is celebrating two years as national president, and the time is eerily similar to when he was just two weeks into the role, when Eric Garner was killed by officers in Staten Island, New York. Garner was detained after selling loose cigarettes.

    “I would assert that people participating in this so-called underground economy, which is basically small entrepreneurship.This is nothing anybody should lose their lives for, so we’re here to send the message that we’re not going to grieve serially. We have to call for specific policy, legislative reform.”

    But before talking reform, Brooks encourages the community to allow a moment to grieve, followed by a moment to come together and then a decisive course of action.

    “Everybody needs to come together,” Brooks said. “And beyond that, a plan. We are at a time of both increased activism and heightened apprehension. There’s a reason to be vigilant, however it’s not a reason to be paralyzed. We cannot outsource the safety of our community to other people.”

    He said, “We gotta act now.”

    Understanding that there are people who will be fearful to stand on the front lines in times of social and civil unrest and police misconduct, Brooks compared the movement to that of a band.

    “One band, one sound, but that doesn’t mean everyone plays the same instrument,” he said.

    “When you see your sons and daughters being profiled, when you see your people being disrespected, when you see your community being disrespected, now may be the time to engage in activism, even if that’s not your thing,” Brooks said.

    “Beyond that, if you can’t stand on the front lines, then you raise some money for the people standing on the front lines, then you register folks to vote so that they can support the agenda of the people standing on the front line.

    The point being, in this post-millennium civil rights movement, there is a role for everyone to play.”

    Brooks encourages individuals who want to participate in taking action to visit NAACP.org for resources, including research based data for each state in regards to protest and demonstration laws. He also encourages citizens to let their fears motivate them to join together with others who seek justice.

    By Leslie D. Rose
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Protesters, leaders vow: ‘We will not destroy or burn down our community’

    Alton Sterling’s death has inspired nationwide protests backed by thousands of Americans who want to end police brutality and the unremitting laws that seem to protect those who are employed to serve and protect citizens.

    Sterling’s name is being called by people all over the world who are partaking in public demonstrations, rallies, and protests seeking justice for his death and that of Philando Castile, Dylan Noble, and others who were killed by police officers. With the continued efforts being taken to protest, many people are optimistic about the possibility of justice being served this time around, but what happens if the verdict isn’t in favor of the victims? How will supporters feel? Will the public outcry lead to a volatile response from protesters? In Baton Rouge, leaders are extending a strong message to citizens currently fighting for justice and against police brutality. They are saying, with microphones in hand and in casual conversations, “Rioting and looting aren’t effective forms of retaliation. We will not destroy Baton Rouge.”

    In the past, America has seen the devastating aftermath and retaliation from outraged protesters and residents following seemingly “unjust” verdicts. Many of the most highly publicized officer-involved shootings have resulted in non-indictments, non-guilty verdicts, and dropped charges.

    Despite facing incriminating evidence and unedited videos of their attacks, overly aggressive—and often violent—police officers have managed to walk away from cases with judges ruling in their favor. Instead of serving time, these officers end up getting a slap on the wrist or a severance package to move on with their lives. Only to be met with violent uproar within the communities left on the other side of justice.

    Local community leaders and elected officials have stepped into what could’ve been riotous moments during the protests following Sterling’s killing and deescalated situations in an effort to keep peace. With emotions and tensions at it peak, these leaders say they aren’t personally concerned about the possibility of local looting, but some residents are.“I don’t have a concern about looting, but I’m a business owner and a property owner so, I do know other business and property owners may be worried about those possibilities because they aren’t as close to the situation as I am,” said businessman Cleve Dunn Jr.

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    Cleve Dunn Jr

    “(Baton Rouge has) done things differently from a lot of other places around the country because we’ve had the opportunity to learn from the lessons and previous mistakes other communities have made and observed that if you tear your community up, once national media leave and professional protesters leave, we’re left to deal with the aftermath.”

    To that, Black leaders throughout the city stress the importance of refraining from destroying the community, saying the aftermath would be detrimental to the advancement of the community.

    “Destructive protests do not accomplish anything because generally our people are the ones who hurt the most from it,” said Doris Gaymon, 64, a lifelong resident of North Baton Rouge. “We tend to destroy our own areas and properties and it defeats the purpose of the message we hope to send. In many cases, the areas destroyed are not insured and total destruction on those locations have made owners apprehensive about rebuilding in the impacted areas due to fears of repeated destruction.”

    For Gaymon, Sterling’s death is quite disheartening and many of the strikingly intense photos from recent protests mirror those from Civil Rights era demonstrations. The images and emotions signify the fight for equality and the ongoing battle against police brutality.

    “It appears we haven’t gotten beyond destruction,” she said.

    Gaymon remembers the 1972 rally at Southern University where Denver Smith and Leonard Brown were fatally shot by white deputies while protesting on campus. Although their protests weren’t centered around police brutality, they were fighting for a number of on-campus changes and the resignation of certain administrators.

    “The death of Alton Sterling has only culminated a deep-rooted problem that has been festering for many years. Hopefully, we, as a people, can understand that destruction does not resolve anything,” Gaymon said.

    In spite of all the horrific events Baton Rouge has experienced—including the shooting death of Sterling, attacks on peaceful protestors, and the deaths of three uniform officers—most residents agree emphatically that retaliation in the form of rioting and looting won’t relay the message of justice the community is hoping to send.

    “At every opportunity, you will hear leaders and residents all over saying, ‘We will not destroy or burn down our community!’,” said Dunn. “And we will not. This is ours.”

    By Meaghan Ellis
    Special to The Drum

    Originally published July 2016 in the print edition of The Drum

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  • ,

    Funeral arrangements for Alton Sterling’s homegoing

    The family of Alton Sterling will hold his funeral service in the Southern University F. G. Clark Activity Center, Friday, July 15, 2016. According to the family, a viewing is scheduled for 8 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., and the funeral at 11 a.m.

    The services will be handled as a private event in the campus facility in terms of traffic, parking, and security.

    Carney and Mackey Funeral Home of Baton Rouge is coordinating arrangements. For more information call (225) 774-0390.

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  • Moore steps down as prosecutor in Sterling case, faces question of police treatment of protesters

    During a press conference earlier today East Baton Rouge DA Hillar Moore announced that he has recused himself as prosecutor in the Alton Sterling case. Moore said he has no relationship to Blane Salamoni or Howie Lake II, the two officers involved in the fatal shooting, but he does have a relationship with both of Salamoni’s parents, who are also police officers.

    Moore described the relationship as professional in nature, spanning his career as an investigator, defense attorney, and district attorney.

    While answering questions from members of the media at the same press conference, Moore expressed some doubt as to whether yesterday’s move by police to enter the private residence of Lisa Batiste, who had given protesters permission to be in her home, was appropriate or legal.

    “I don’t think the police need to make any more arrests or push the people to make an arrest. . .Whether police can go onto private property, obviously if they saw a crime committed, they can follow that person. Maybe not inside a house depending on the charge.” said Moore

    This treatment has been publicized in national media and in closed meetings between Black elected officials and the US Department of Justice.

    EBRP metro councilman Lamont Cole told The Advocate that the group has “some serious concerns” about how protesters have been handled by police.

    At this time, officials are awaiting recommendations from the US Department of Justice on whether charges should be brought against Lake and Salamoni who are on paid, administrative leave from the Baton Rouge Police Department.

    Read more »
  • #NSBESpeaks: Our Response to Police Brutality, Racism and Violence in America

    By Matthew C. Nelson, National Chair, National Society of Black Engineers

    It is with a heavy heart that I offer my first official communication as the national chair of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). I find myself in a difficult situation when responding to recent instances of social injustice. A significant portion of the revenue used by NSBE to fund scholarships and programs for aspiring, young black minds comes from corporations seeking to increase their diversity through their relationships with our organization. I hope this letter does not estrange them. However, our mutual goal of a diverse engineering workforce is unattainable when black students are more worried for their lives than about their lectures, and when black employees lose productivity over concerns of prejudice.

    Over the past few days, the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling have peeled back the scab that covers the septic state of race relations in America. These incidents are especially concerning given the manner in which they occurred: Sterling shot while being pinned to the ground, Castile while reaching for his wallet at an officer’s command. Although both officers will face investigations to determine legal culpability, the visceral reaction evoked is one of shock, fear and fury. The most frightening notion is that our compliance with law enforcement officers may no longer be sufficient for survival. Recent events have caused individuals who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science, technology, engineering and math to question the relevance of their education in a society that undervalues their lives.

    However, the value of life is not exclusive to one race or one profession. The solution to addressing the concerns of our community certainly does not reside in the assassination of public safety officials. Incidents like the recent shootings of police in Dallas during a peaceful protest make a hazardous atmosphere even more toxic. Just as we are praying for the families of the black men slain, we pray for the families of the police officers who were struck down while in the line of duty.

    The issues plaguing the black community extend far beyond police brutality. Unemployment, lack of access to services, underfunded educational systems, the prison-industrial complex, black on black crime, etc.: all of those concerns need to be addressed. However, we must not avoid confronting the ugly truths around policing in America. We must hold our elected officials responsible for the conduct of the officers who work on their behalf. A sheriff is typically an elected official. A police chief or commissioner is usually appointed by a mayor or city council. Research your candidates for government offices, and continue to voice your concerns once they begin their terms.

    In addition, leverage your economic power to influence policy. Choose wisely when deciding where you will live and pay taxes. Make the choice to shop and dine in areas where black consumers are welcomed and appreciated, not labeled and harassed. Take note of the response from the LGBT community to North Carolina House Bill 2 and the effect of that response on that state’s economy. Circumstances will not change until the message is made clear: the unjustified use of force against blacks will be met with swift political and economic repercussions.

    Times like these challenge our belief in justice and our faith in humanity, yet we still must march on, carrying the burdens of oppression, discrimination and hatred in a country that often fails to acknowledge our contributions, our place in society and our rights as citizens. Although these events have obviously rocked us to our very core, emotionally and spiritually, this is not the time for us to lose sight of our mission. It is imperative that we continue to expose our people to opportunities and encourage each other to strive for excellence, while engaging in meaningful dialogue about how to navigate today’s world. Cultural responsibility must prevail. For additional resources to help you focus your frustrations on positive outcomes, read the post “STEM and Social Justice: Applying an Engineering Lens to Social Change,” located on NSBE’s website (www.nsbe.org) in the Blog section.

    If you take nothing else from this letter, please understand that as the leader of NSBE, I feel the sa

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  • NewsOne Now talks with BR activist Arthur Reed about Alton Sterling shooting

    News One Now managing editor Roland S. Martin spoke with Baton Rouge activist Arthur Reed about his personal video of the police shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling. Reed spoke about the systemic racism and division that has always been present in the Baton Rouge community.

    “There are a bunch of lies when it comes down to this being a close knit community, said Reed. “This has been a divided community ever since the Jim Crow era. It’s a community of two different types of Black folks; Black folks who will push the vote and black folks that will stand on the shore and tell us that the vote don’t need pushing. We have two different types of Black folks here in Louisiana and definitely in Baton Rouge.”

    Reed also called out Baton Rouge’s Mayor Kip Holden for being supportive of the police and his lack of compassion towards Sterling’s family.

    “The mayor has done a poor job of being a part of the Black community,” added Reed. This young man has been murdered, and the mayor has not shown his face at any of the vigils, he has not come out and talked to the family. The mayor is being pro-police knowing that the police have been the biggest agitators and oppressors of the community here in Baton Rouge.”

    Read more »
  • ,

    Mayoral candidate Smokie Bourgeois releases statement on Sterling shooting

    Smokie Bourgeois, candidate for Mayor-President, released an official statement on the recent shootings earlier today:

    “When I came of age, my daddy had a serious talk with me. He started with the phrase ‘violence begets violence’. He went on to make it clear to me that anytime I encountered police officers, it would be a good idea to follow their instructions. If I ever wanted to argue or fight with police, nothing good would come of it. He said to save my arguments for the judge. His words ring as true today as back then.

    Of all the horrific crimes committed and reported in Baton Rouge, one story has caught everyone’s attention; the death of Alton Sterling. Media reports, supported by video, make one fact very clear, Alton Sterling refused to follow police officers’ repeated instructions.

    Smokie Bourgeois

    Smokie Bourgeois


    To anyone who wants to treat police officers as shooting targets, you cannot win, you will only lose. The emotional tide sweeping this city and country will turn against you. All lives matter, particularly those of the men and women in law enforcement who place their lives on the line every day to protect you. In every civilized society, the rules of law and the authority of those who protect us must be respected and followed for the safety of all.

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  • ,

    The world is watching Baton Rouge

      Media around the world are watching Baton Rouge:

    MSNBC:Protests have erupted in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after the shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling by police early Tuesday morning

    CNN: Louisiana lawmaker calls on Justice Department to investigate police shooting death

    New York Times: Alton Sterling and When Black Lives Stop Mattering

    Wallstreet Journal: U.S. Justice Department to Investigate Police Shooting in Baton Rouge – http://www.wsj.com/articles/louisiana-officer-fatally-shoots-suspect-protests-erupt-1467796285

    BBC: Alton Sterling death: Fresh protests over Louisiana shooting – http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36731378

    Philadelphia CBS: Demonstrators Hit Philadelphia Streets Protesting Death Of Alton Sterling – http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2016/07/06/demonstrators-hit-philadelphia-streets-protesting-the-death-of-alton-sterling/

    Black America Web: #AltonSterling Is The Latest Victim Of A Culture That Dehumanizes Black Men – http://blackamericaweb.com/2016/07/06/altonsterling-is-the-latest-victim-of-a-culture-that-dehumanizes-black-men/

    IMG_20160706_225507

      Social Media:

    Hillary Clinton: “The death of Alton Sterling is a tragedy, and my prayers are with his family.” – https://twitter.com/HillaryClinton/status/750851893480521728

    Governor John Bel Edwards: Gov. Edwards’ Statement Following Recent Officer-Involved Shooting in Baton Rouge – http://gov.louisiana.gov/news/statement-following-recent-officerinvolved-shooting-in-baton-rouge

    Jessie Jackson: “The shooting of #AltonSterling in #BatonRouge is a legal lynching. Justice must prevail. #Outraged” – https://twitter.com/RevJJackson/status/750648298415853568

    Drake: “It is impossible to ignore that the relationship between black and brown communities and law enforcement remains as strained as it was decades ago.” – https://www.instagram.com/p/BHim8QWjFTx/

    Glen Davis: “I knew Alton Sterling and he wouldn’t hurt a fly” – http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/basketball/nba-glen-davis-knew-alton-sterling-wouldn-hurt-fly-article-1.2701263

    Shaun King: “Officers Blane Salamoni & Howie Lake should already be arrested by now. That latest video of their execution of #AltonSterling is enough.” – https://twitter.com/ShaunKing/status/750870151554174976

    Read more »
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