• Danyol Jaye

Alton Sterling: Who Gives A Hashtag?!


There are no words that can appropriately express the outrage in this country for the Black lives that have been (and continuously are being) murdered by psychotic, racist, superiority complexed police men and women. In the awakening of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, malicious debates have erupted all over social media with the counter #AllLivesMatter as to insinuate that people are focusing on the wrong corridor of the issue. These ALM (All Lives Matter) advocates say that it is not about specifying one race or ethnic group in the fight for justice, but remembering that we are all one race of people who all matter and should be justified correctly; with dignity and respect.

However, the reality of this foolish argument; usually provided by those of privilege with no real experience in knowing what it is to become a suspect purely because of the color of your skin or style of dress, becomes even more invalid as America continues to have video footage of men, women, and children being brutally beaten and killed by our law officials and either NOTHING is done about it or very little is done in conjunction to innocent people losing their lives unjustifiably.

As a blogger I do my best not to blindly post or share something on social media without first having concrete facts on the issue that’s being presented to me. There are false statistics that go out every day on social media, unbound in any type of truth or factual evidence. Alas, when it comes to the murdering of Black people in America, there is just too much evidence to support the foundation of #BlackLivesMatter, that is, that America, as a whole, still does not value Black life. That Black life is something to be hunted like animals, murdered like beasts, and covered up like an old scab on the elbow of White supremacy having been scrapped up against the many Black faces that have been raped, beaten, and mutilated.

Alton Sterling was a 37-year-old husband and father who lost his life when a Baton Rouge officer pinned Sterling to the ground after responding to a 911 call. The call reported a man with a gun having threatened a patron in front of a convenience store. Video footage of the incident showed the officer pulling out his gun and pointing it at Sterling’s chest and firing two shots resulting in Sterlings death. A second video emerged from a different angle showing a second officer “pulling out a gun” from Sterlings pocket, however, this blogger thinks there’s more to that video than what meets the media eye. Alton sold CD’s and DVD’s in front of the convenience store and knew the owner for over 6 years. Neither the owner or community members have yet to say anything negative about Sterling; ruining any type of negative image the media may try to portray. Many questions are swarming around this murder. Why was he shot close range when already pinned to the ground? If they were responding to a call about a man with a gun why not try and feel for one while he was pinned down? Why wait to pull out the gun after he was shot and not moving? Why does the second video look like the cop already had a gun in his hand when he reaches for Sterlings pocket? Alas, these are the type of questions that have surrounded many occurrences where Black lives have ended due to police force. Questions that people all over the country are convinced will continue to go unanswered and ignored as with many other victims that America has lost.

Kathryn Johnston was a 92-year-old woman who was shot at 39 times and killed after Atlanta police mistakenly raided the wrong house for drug trafficking. The police broke down Johnston’s door and she (unaware of what was going on) fired one shot out of the door, over the heads of the officers. The one shot that injured no one resulted in five to six bullets hitting and killing Johnston in return fire. The officers later confessed to planting drugs in Johnston’s home and falsifying documentation. Three officers were later tried for manslaughter while charges regarding falsifying documents were also made. The officers were sentenced to ten, six, and five years.

Sean Bell, a 23-year-old man celebrating with his friends the night before his wedding was killed in a 50 bullet barrage while in his vehicle, housing him and his two friends who were severely injured. The shooting was the result of a misconception and a conflict of accounts of the evening by NYPD officers who were investigating Club Kalua for an alleged prostitution ring. The officers (both plain clothed and uniformed) said that they were made aware of one of Bell’s friends going to get a gun to settle an argument with a man inside the club. The officer who followed Bell and his friends (and called for back up) said he identified himself first but Bell accelerated his vehicle into the officer. This, of course, resulting in the officers shooting at the vehicle because they saw someone reach for a gun. The stories from the officers conflict with eye witnesses who say that there was never any identification made nor was there any mention from Bell and his friends about a gun while leaving the club. The officers who were charged with first and second-degree assault, and second-degree reckless endangerment were found not guilty.

Eric Garner, 44-years-old, was killed after NYPD put Garner in a chokehold after accusing him of selling single cigarettes without a tax stamp. In trying to arrest Garner several other cops restrained him on the ground while Garner repeatedly pleaded with officers that he could not breathe. The officers claim that due to Garners height and girth these measures were necessary to restrain Garner, although, chokeholds are strictly prohibited by NYPD. After finally getting Garner in handcuffs they waited for CMT’s who did not administer CPR because they said they “thought” Garner was still breathing and would have no use for CPR. The medical examiner concluded that Garner’s death was, indeed, a homicide from the chokehold, compressions of his chest and his positioning during the physical restraint. Due to a technicality in the definition of the term homicide (a death caused by intentional actions but not necessarily an intentional death) a Richmond County grand jury decided against indicting the officer who initially held Garner in a chokehold. An out-of-court settlement was later announced where the City of New York would pay the Garner family $5.9 million, although, I doubt any amount of money can properly console the loss of their loved one.

Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old woman who was shot and killed by an off-duty officer in Chicago, IL. The officer called 911 to complain about a party that was too loud late in the evening. The officer later approached Boyd and her friends in an alleyway to reprimand them for being too loud. When the officer mistook a cellphone for a gun he fired several shots, one of which hit Boyd in the back of the head and killed her. The officer resigned from the force 2 days before a departmental hearing would have determined whether he would have been fired or not. The city of Chicago paid $4.5 million to Boyd’s family.

Amadou Diallo was a 23-year-old man who was shot by four NYPD Street Crime Unit officers who mistook Diallo for a serial rapist involved in the rape and/or attempted rape of 29 victims. As the officers approached Diallo in his apartment building, they claim that due to bad lightening they mistook Diallo pulling out his wallet for him pulling out and aiming a gun at the officers. They proceeded to fire 41 shots, 19 of which hit and killed Diallo. The officers were all acquitted in an Albany Court of all charges of second-degree murder. The unit of which the officers were a part of has since been disbanded.

Michael Brown was an unarmed boy who lost his life for stealing a handful of cigars out of a convenience store. The officer says that there was a struggle and that Brown looked as if he was going to severely attack and inure him so he fired several shots, many of which hit and killed Brown. Brown's body remained dead in the sweltering heat for four hours until the body was apprehended by an unmarked vehicle provided by police. The officer that killed Brown was never indicted and was found to be well within his rights to shoot Brown in “self-defense”. The media played an integral role in the public image and view of Brown as coverage referred to Brown in such a way that many thought Brown was a grown man who had assaulted an officer. The outrage grew when people found out that Brown was only 18-years-old.

Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. was only 68-years-old. He was a retired Marine and a 20-year veteran of the Westchester County Department of Corrections. New York officers broke down Chamberlains door, tasered him and then shot him to death after Chamberlain’s medical alert necklace was activated accidentally. Police arrived trying to question Mr. Chamberlain but when he refused to open his door, stating that it was a false alarm and needed no assistance, officers broke in and shot him. The bullet pierced Chamberlain's side through his arm, chest, and both lungs confirming that Chamberlain's arms were down at the time of shooting; no struggle from Chamberlain was ever confirmed.

Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old boy who was shot two times and killed by Cleveland police as they responded to a 911 call that stated a Black male was sitting on a swing waiving a gun. Reports say the 911 caller prefaced the call by saying the gun could be a fake and that the male is probably a juvenile. Neither of these things were relayed to the officer who (while still in a moving vehicle) jumped out and shot Rice immediately without any further action. The officers did not adhere any medical aid to Rice after shooting him. Rice was later taken to the hospital where he died from his wounds.

Trayvon Martin was the Florida murder heard ‘round the world as the 17-year-old was gunned down by a civilian after being racially profiled. George Zimmerman was part of the neighborhood watch who called police to say that there was a suspicious person walking around who he thought to have been a part of criminal activity. Officials told Zimmerman to wait for officers to arrive but even after being told not to engage the teen, Zimmerman approached the teenager anyway resulting in an altercation between the two and (unarmed) Trayvon was then shot to death. Zimmerman was found charged with murder but then acquitted by a jury. Officials made a statement that Zimmerman had a right to use deadly force to protect himself during the altercation. Zimmerman, since being acquitted, has had several other run in’s with the law, all of which he has managed to walk away from.

There has been quite a few similarities in these stories and many others not mentioned in this article:

  • There’s always a gun involved.

  • The suspect is always accused of reaching for a gun or aiming one at a cop resulting in deadly fire.

  • The suspect at the time of dying is usually unarmed.

  • There’s always a miscalculation from the cops that is acknowledged but never dealt with during trial.

  • There is always media coverage to make every Black face look like an unruly, uneducated thug.

  • The young Black kids who are murdered are always described in ways to negate the fact that they are just children.

But the number one question hanging over my head is, “Why can’t the rest of America see the patterns that we do?” Why is it that when the communities involved rally and protest it is seen as a riot, but when our White counterparts terrorize an entire city because a sports team lost a game, it’s a “radical act of celebration”? Why do the people seem to justify the fact that Black faces are being murdered (no matter the accusation or situation) while White faces (no matter the accusation or situation) are being apprehended instead of killed?

With the birth and takeover of social media, the hashtag has become a sign of solidarity to whatever words follow its criss-crossed lines. It has become the banners that sweep through our social media pages; one person crying out to another and another and so on and so forth until every page and account is flooded with the news that each hashtag has to bring. It is the carrier of our common interests, trends, favorite things, and even our dislikes. However, when communities across our nation rally in social media solidarity to proclaim to this (un)great nation that #BlackLivesMatter we are shut down with #AllLivesMatter, as to diminish the Black blood seeping through our pavements. We are told that #CopsLivesMatter, as to diminish the fact that in a public service organization there is corruption and deceit, hate and racism that occurs not only on our streets, but between the desks of fellow cops who struggle to stay silent as not to jeopardize their job and family’s meal ticket. We are berated to think about what the Black life did incorrectly as to insinuate that not complying with an officer or having a bad attitude are grounds to cause a person’s livability to cease.

We are manipulated and brainwashed to fight over the minute and microscopic details of which Black murder was worse than another or why one Black speech was greater than another, only to strategically get us to tear each other further apart. It is the systematic plague of separation and discord that the great machine of White supremacy has created that allows for this (un)great nation to continue it’s assassination on faces filled with color.

Continually, the hashtag is the very sign and signal that defines for us who is and is not with the movement and change of the greater good for people filled with melanin. Alton Sterling, Kathryn Johnston, Sean Bell, Eric Garner, Rekia Boyd, Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Sandra Bland, Kimani Gray, Travares McGill, and to all the Black faces we’ve lost since the raping of the grounds of this nation, I am so sorry to you! I’m sorry that we haven’t done what we need to do to properly honor and vindicate for you! I’m sorry that we have not come to a place where senseless murder is not met with acquittals and promotions. I’m sorry that you have to watch, from wherever you are now, the many other lives that we are bound to lose. However, I promise you this: Your voices will not be forgotten, your deaths will not go unnoticed and we (those who scream loud and proud that #BlackLivesMatter) will give this nation one HELL of a time until such a time is upon us that true justice can be served. Hashtag #BlackLivesWillBeSaved!!!

Feature Photo Courtesy of Pug50's Flickr Page-Creative Commons License

#AltonSterling #BlackLivesMatter #PoliceBrutality

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