Protesters marched up Selma’s famed Edmund Pettus Bridge on Wednesday chanting “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “I can’t breathe,” which have become the signature chants of the movement in protest of the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner—along with a new chant “Show the Tape.”
The chant is in reference to the videotape of the shooting of 74-year-old Ananias Shaw by Selma police last December, which was recorded on one of the officer’s lapels. Police claim that Shaw rushed at the officer while holding a hatchet.
Police Chief William Riley insists that the tape will confirm that the murder was justified.
The dispute over the videotape is a compelling question, since the police body cameras have been suggested as a solution to excessive force by police. But as many have speculated, the probing question then becomes, What happens to the videotape?
When officers responded to a disturbance at Church’s Chicken, Shaw had gone into a nearby vacant building, Riley said. Then, the man came out with a hatchet, “cussing like a dog.” Police told Shaw they didn’t want to hurt him and asked him to drop the weapon on multiple occasions, according to Riley’s account of what happened that day. But, when Shaw turned to an officer with his hatchet raised, police felt they needed to shoot him.
“The officer let him get too close,” Riley said.
Shaw’s brother Edward Shaw has a different account of what happened. He said that his brother left the restaurant where the disturbance was so there was no need for him to be followed in the first place.
“Why would you follow him?” Shaw asked. “That’s what gets me.”
Shaw was a longstanding member of the Selma community and though everyone knew he “acted crazy” from time to time, he never caused anyone harm, Edward Shaw told CNN.
The protests in Ferguson inspired activist Faya Rose Toure to dig up the old case and lead the campaign for the tape to be released to the public.
“It’s a matter of transparency,” Toure said.
Toure’s husband, state Senator Hank Sanders, is responsible for $30,000 in funding for the city to buy the cameras for the police force to wear.
“Ferguson,” she said, “is advocating for something we already have. But why can’t we see the tape?”
Edward Shaw agrees with Toure.
“Show the tape to the whole town,” Shaw said.
Riley hasn’t budged on his stance not to let the tape become public for the time being.
“I don’t care who’s jumping up and down,” Riley said. “I do what’s right and that’s what I’m going to do. We want the family to see it first. It’s only fair.”
Currently the police chief claims to have arranged for Ananias Shaw’s son and daughter to view the tape at a local law enforcement agency in Chicago where they live. On Friday morning, Edward Shaw and some of Shaw’s Alabama relatives will be able to see the tape as well.
Riley fears that justified police shootings like this one will continue to be lumped in with cases like Michael Brown’s and Eric Garner’s.
“We have things going on in policing that aren’t right,” he said of the country. But, “we’re no Ferguson,” and acting like Selma is Ferguson “hurts the message,” he said.