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Vol. 80/No. 38      October 10, 2016

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Killing by Charlotte police sparks protests, discussion

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The police killing of Keith Scott here Sept. 20 sparked outrage and triggered protests and widespread discussion and debate in area high schools, workplaces and living rooms. Scott, a 43-year-old African-American, was shot dead in the parking lot of his apartment complex by Police Officer Brentley Vinson, also Black.

The killing came on the heels of two other fatal police shootings. In Columbus, Ohio, 13-year-old Tyre King was gunned down Sept. 14 by Officer Bryan Mason, who said the youth drew a weapon. It turned out to be a BB gun. Two days later Officer Betty Shelby shot 40-year-old Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The police released a video showing he was walking away with his hands up. Within days city authorities felt compelled to arrest and charge Shelby.

In Charlotte, authorities released dash-cam and body camera footage of the shooting of Scott after refusing for days. The videos failed to back police claims that Scott was a threat or carried a gun.

“Hundreds of us are here tonight to protest peacefully, as we have been all week,” Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, told a church rally of several hundred Sept. 26. “We are all here marching together — Black, white, Latino, male, female, gays and straight. We are united and won’t be divided.”

Over 100 people packed a City Council meeting the same day, and more than 40 signed up to speak out against the police shooting and the city’s response. One was Zianna Oliphant, a young girl who needed a step ladder to reach above the podium.

“We shouldn’t have to protest because you are treating us wrong. We do this because we need to and have rights,” she said, fighting back tears. “It’s a shame that our fathers and mothers are killed and we can’t see them any more. It’s a shame we have to go to their graveyard and bury them.”

Osborne Hart, Socialist Workers Party candidate for vice president, addressed 50 people at a vigil that day at the site where Scott was killed. “Police killings are a working-class issue,” he said. “The killings are systemic to capitalist rule. We need a movement of millions that can replace it with the rule of working people.”

Hart spent two days here joining protests and knocking on doors in working-class neighborhoods, discussing the fight against police brutality, the effects on working people of the spreading capitalist crisis and Washington’s wars abroad.

Discussion runs through Charlotte

On Sept. 23, students at half a dozen Charlotte-area high schools organized rallies, cafeteria-wide discussions, sit-ins, prayer circles and a poetry slam. Before that evening’s football games, players and cheerleaders from West Mecklenburg and Ardrey Kell high schools knelt together for a moment of silence. At Mallard Creek High some players knelt during the national anthem. West Charlotte High’s cheerleaders were dressed in black instead of their maroon and gold and held signs saying “All Lives Matter” and an enlarged photo of protesters confronting the cops.

City officials and the media sought to portray the protesters as violent, highlighting some incidents of vandalism and looting.

“I have been to almost every rally and the rioting didn’t help,” John Simmons, 22, told the Militant at the vigil. “But the failure of the police to not immediately release the videos was a blatant lack of transparency and increased everyone’s feeling that they had something to hide,” he said.

On Sept. 23, attorneys for Scott’s family released a cellphone video taken by his wife as cops approached and killed him. Rakeyia Scott can be heard telling the cops her husband has no gun, that he has a traumatic brain injury and that he is not going to hurt anybody. She repeatedly says, “Don’t shoot him.”

Neighbors said Scott often sat reading in his white truck near the entrance to the complex, waiting for the school bus to drop his son off, and that’s what they thought he was doing that afternoon.

Participants in the rallies across the city have noted the broad response to the killing. “It was important for people to see that Latinos share a common oppression with Blacks from the police,” Noe Pliego Campos, a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, told the Militant as he joined a group carrying the Mexican flag in one of the marches. “We also made signs in Spanish so that those who don’t read English could understand what the protests are about.”

“What happened on Tuesday didn’t just start on Tuesday,” Scott’s neighbor Yolanda Haskins told the Sept. 26 church rally to thunderous applause.

“My son was shot in the back while running away,” Moesha Brown said, describing how cops shot her 16-year-old son Laquan Brown. “If someone is running away, how is he a threat to a police officer?”

Larneka Jackson told the rally how her brother, Lareko Williams, was tasered to death in 2011. She disagreed with those who argue that the answer is more police training, saying the cop who killed her brother had years of training and documents saying he was qualified.
Related articles:
Socialist Workers Party: Protest police brutality!
Athletes’ protests against killings by cops spread
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