Judge Clifton Newman granted bail on Jan 5th, 2016 for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager. Slager is charged with the murder of Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man whose death was captured on a cellphone video. The reason may surprise you.
Another judge actually ordered the same prosecutors to try Dylann Roof for murder in July. If the name Dylann Roof sounds familiar, it’s because Roof was the terrorist charged in the mass killing at Emanuel AME Church in July. With both trials imminent, prosecutors needed time to prepare and asked for a November trial date for Slager.
Due to the potential delays, Slager’s legal team asked the court to reconsider the decision to hold Slager without bail. The judge granted a $500,000 bail and set the trial for Oct. 31st.
Then this happened.
A former North Charleston, S.C., police officer was indicted on murder charges in the killing of 50-year-old Walter Scott.
According to Scarlett Wilson, the Ninth Circuit Solicitor, the indictment against Michael Slager was handed down by a grand jury first thing this morning.
The (Charleston) Post and Courier reports:
"'The prosecution work has just begun,' Wilson said during a news conference. The solicitor said she just received last part of the State Law Enforcement Division file this morning.
"Wilson said she thinks a jury in Charleston County can be impartial in making decision in the case.
"Slager's attorney, Andy Savage, said the indictment is 'just another step in the process.'"
Reports showed that Slager told investigators that he believed he had followed protocol when he shot Scott. However the video showed that Slager fired his weapon while Scott was running away and without a verbal warning.
A trial date has not yet been set.
In 1955, the September 15th issue of Jet Magazine in 1955 featured a four page spread on Emmett Till’s kidnap and murder featuring images from his open casket funeral, at the request of his mother. Emmett had been killed by two white men in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Mamie Till, Emmett’s mother, who demanded the open casket, is quoted as saying she “wanted the world to see what they did to [her] baby.” While for years prior, postcards and mementos of public lynchings were popular, the images of Emmett Till’s unsettling disfiguration stuck differently into the American consciousness. Many cite this as a catalyst for the “Civil Rights” movement, as we understand it widely. While one would remiss to qualify Till’s death and public display as “worth it”, we must give it a weight in how it triggered change and urgency. In light of this week’s copious footage of both Walter Scott and Eric Harris’ brutal murders, we (in a rare meaning of ALL of us), are presented with more iconography of Negricide: the murder of Black folk.
These kinds of killings are commonplace in American consciousness, and while some can cry numb to the images, others cry “how much more?”.
If you are living distant from social media networks and look to mainstream news, you may just be beginning to notice the seemingly endless reel of Black life being stripped in knee-jerk hatred. Some activists have stated how, even now, many people are so slow to believe our system is this unjust. For the millennials at the helm and in the thick of this movement, callously grotesque images of extrajudicial killings flash heavy almost weekly of a new name, a new report, a new spread of images reminding us how too many (de)value Black life. While Black folk knew of state violence and white terror before Emmett, Mamie Till knew the work his body would do for the national conversation. Nearly sixty years later, we are still requiring the use of the slain Black body to incite justice and rally resistance.
Footage of coldblooded murder become viral hits, yet clicks do not easily translate to action.
Even if we were to ignore the white gaze in understanding America’s fetishization with negricide, we’d still have to wonder who is this for? What is the use of Black death by Black media? Why must we show our own wounds to inspire action among our people? Is Black death the only motivation for defending Black life? How peculiar a burden?
In the way television revealed to Americans nationwide the flagrant injustice happening in the segregated South, media has long been a tool of mobilizing around justice. What used to be evening news segments with dogs and fire hoses is now passerby camera phone documentation of street corner homicide. For those who didn’t believe before, we have now a wealth of iconography showing how quick Black life is eliminated at the (unsubstantiated) threat of White comfort. Considering the ways White supremacy and racism permeates popular media, it is unfortunately impossible to not address how the White gaze upon Black death has become a for profit venture. Not only are the murderers of Black people often paid handsomely and protected from prosecution, accounts of their acts run incessantly across our platforms like monstrous victory laps. Despite well-meaning “trigger warnings” and disclaimers of “graphic images”, there is this under addressed issue of having to see to believe.
Speaking to some activists who have been on the ground nationwide, a startling report they share is that many folks don’t believe the system is so unjust until seeing videos. The myth of “both sides” in processing Black death from (White) police has permeated the narrative. The judicial system is quick to justify policing and the use of deadly force by criminalizing the Black victim. These reports however support many Black people who believe in respectability politic as mode for survival. The ludicrousness of this belief assumes only "bad cops" kill "bad people" and that there is chance for safety of we play along in the system. For those folks, watch Tamir Rice being shot within seconds of police contact, hear his sisters screams. Tell me how a child playing with a toy, enters your narrative of safety. At what point in that two second interaction was the 12 year old to move slowly and calmly to ease Officer Terror's fears?
The movement lives and we have been inundated with evidence that this entire system is corrupt. Black scholars have long dissected injustice from the institutional level, and again the streets provide weekly case study for resistance. The necessary yet unending work being done leads to exhaustion and burnout and apathy toward change. While we are attempting to find new words to process the trauma of Black life presented as mainstay, we need new language to incite action from our people.
In watching Walter Scott's gruesome murder, I just wanted him to fall, after each shot, just to make it stop, just to know his pain would be over. I found myself rooting for his freedom in death knowing life was already taken.
How many shots in the back do our bodies need to suffer before we release the doubt.
In the Christian faith, the New Testament tells of Doubting Thomas, a disciple of Jesus who doesn't believe he has risen till he has seen the wounds of crucifixion. Jesus asks Thomas to see the wounds and shares, (paraphrasing) "blessed are those who believe without seeing." While those who see the inherent value of the work continue steadfast, we must make a space for those who doubt. There is a work being done around mobilizing anger and rage and hope from Black people.
Habeas Corpus, a legal term taken from Latin, is roughly translated to "present the body." The concept is utilized in the legal system as way to "insure justice" by requiring the accused be present in trial. As we know trial and jury and justice are often empty terms in Negricide but we are still presented with the bodies. The bodies of Black children killed on their home. The bodies of Black women seeking a help from a neighbor. The bodies of Black folk lifted daily in litany noir. While asking "how many more?" is my immediate reaction the fear is our inability as a nation to reach a critical mass of trauma. There are no easy words or plans of action. There are both too many scripts and so little language for these feelings.
As we continue to cry out Black Lives Matter, I implore you to see how you can enter this work— before the next body hits the ground and our words fail us again.
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The S.C. Law Enforcement Division (SLED) has released dashcam footage from Saturday's encounter between Walter Scott and North Charleston Police Officer Michael T. Slager. It's a 4 min video but we've cut it down to the most important seconds. Here is the link to the full video via CNN.
Every so often police officers lie. Without the video shot by a bystander in Walter Scotts death, it is likely most of us would have never known his name and never heard his story. As a community many of us have been hearing local stories of corrupt policies for decades. Corruption in the criminal justice system is real. Corruption in the criminal justice system is not new. We have to continue to hold our government accountable.
Below is a summary of 5 lies told to us by the police in the aftermath of Walter Scott's murder. Share the image. Share your stories.
Like this infographic? Share it with a friend below to help spread the word and document our history. ...
In response to opinions surrounding respectability politics and reactions to the latest incidents involving racism and police brutality, the #TweetLikeUncleTom hashtag emerged on Twitter. As our community mourns another black life, once again we turn to parody to call out insensitive and racist comments from others. Per usual, no one was safe from this hashtag. Check out some out some of Blavity's favorite tweets below:
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Earlier today news broke of another Black life taken by police brutality. His name was Walter Scott. While the mobilization for accountability is real and necessary, we must also pause and grieve the loss of another Black life. Walter Scott matters.
Footage surfaced Tuesday of South Carolina Police Officer, Michael Slager, shooting Walter L. Scott after a traffic stop. Below is the video. WARNING: video is graphic and triggering.
The video depicts the officer emptying eight shots into Scott’s back as he fled from being tased. This evening the North Charleston mayor announced the state murder charges against Officer Slager. The New York Times cites quick political maneuvering around this case stems from the White House’s call for changes nationwide to improve “police relations.”
In the constant wake of state violence, video footage has inconsistently been beneficial to justice for the victims. For Eric Garner no indictment came and now the by-standing videographer is imprisoned. For Tamir Rice, Cleveland Police blamed him for his own death, because white terror painted him a monster. So now with Presidential pressure, we have this footage and are demanding action.
While the footage is a critical part of this swift response of “justice,” the question still remains:
How many more? How many more Black folk will be laid out in the street in normalized state violence? How many more Black women will be erased from the narrative? How many more Black children will be stripped of youth? How many more hashtag eulogies must we offer up?
These seemingly swift movements toward justice should also be signaling to a larger shift. While the outcries and protests speak volumes, let this footage solidify the need for a change. Our judicial system has been built on Black lives being consumed and imprisoned and slain in the streets. Justice is a farce still in the face of state violence and the whole system needs to be dismantled.
PS: You know how they slander Black folk with everything after the state kills them? Slate had to mention that Scott had a warrant in “family court.”
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