By Michael Nam
Accounts of police killing unarmed Black people are still making headlines since the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The latest stories involve Rekia Boyd, shot and killed in Chicago, and Freddie Gray, a man who died from a mysterious injury allegedly received while in Baltimore Police custody. Each incident seems more shocking than the last, at least to those who are notBlack.
Rekia Boyd was shot in the back of the head by Chicago police Detective Dante Servin when he discharged his weapon five times claiming he thought one of the members of Rekia’s group, Antonio Cross, had pulled a gun. Police found only his cell phone, and Cross himself was grazed by a bullet.
Despite the prosecution of police for a shooting being the first of its kind in Chicago in almost 20 years, the judge acquitted the detective on the technicality that his actions were intentional while the prosecutor had not proven an act of recklessness in legal terms for the involuntary manslaughter charge. The logic that Servin was free and clear of murder because he had intentionally murdered rather than recklessly done so outraged Boyd’s family.
“He gets to walk out, he gets to go to his happy life that’s a slap in the face,” said Martinez Sutton, brother of Rekia Boyd, to the Chicago Tribune. “That’s just telling me the police can just kill you, go through this little process, take a two- or three-year vacation and then get back on the force like nothing happened.”
In a familiar pattern since Ferguson, demonstrators showed up at Daley Plaza and a protest march was held on Chicago’s West Side on the night of April 20th following the verdict, demanding justice for Boyd.
The city of Chicago has already been reeling from revelations of a police department that has recently been stonewalling the release of video footage from another police shooting of a Black man and a police commander had been responsible for the torture of 120 Black men between 1972 and 1991. Boyd’s slaying is only the latest high profile case of Chicago police brutality.
In Baltimore, video of the arrest of Freddie Gray shows a Black man in distress, though there’s little information to what may have occurred prior to the start of the footage. What is known is that Gray, who had been running and apparently healthy before being arrested, suffered a spinal cord injury between the time he was arrested by police and his eventual death days later from that same injury. There was no indication of how the injury was sustained.
On Tuesday, April 21st, the six officers involved in the arrest were named and suspended without pay, and the incident has prompted the Justice Department to begin an investigation. This has not stemmed the anger of protesters as they demonstrated on Tuesday night in front of the Western District police station. Demonstrations are planned to continue today, and a rally outside Baltimore City Hall is slated for Thursday.
At the same time, the activist group, Justice League NYC, finished its ‘March 2 Justice’, a protest march from Staten Island to Washington D.C. Police credibility has been in short supply with the torrent of gun slayings of unarmed Black men, women and even children, prompting protesters to make the lengthy trek.
“After a 250-mile march from New York, a group of brave social justice activists arrived in Washington today to advocate that Congress pass a package of criminal justice legislation that is vital to fixing our broken justice system,” wrote Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “The March 2 Justice’s ‘justice package’ would end racial profiling, demilitarize our police, and shift juvenile justice priorities toward prevention and away from excessive punishment.”
With the acquittal of Dante Servin, the protests serve a reminder that even the prosecution of police violence is no guarantee of justice for Black America as the racially biased nature of the system is all too clear. It’s all too easy to imagine that video in the cases of Freddie Gray or even the explicit shooting of Walter Scott may not lead to any form of accountability.