Since the tragic shooting of Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael Brown, Black celebrities have become vocal about police brutality and over-policing in Black and Brown communities. As more and more videos documenting police misconduct become public, social media and the court of public opinion has become a valuable tool in forming the basis of police accountability.
As of late, the Department of Justice has been actively involved investigating alleged civil rights violations. President Obama and congress have began the process to end mass incarceration and have pushed for police to wear body cameras.
This week, a video of a South Carolina teenage girl being violently apprehended in a Spring Valley High School classroom by a school resource officer sent social media into a frenzy. The girl was allegedly using a cell phone in class. She was forced from her desk, thrown to ground and dragged on the floor by the officer, Ben Fields.
Celebrities in the Black community were some of the loudest voices on social media. Actors including Jeffrey Wright, Gabrielle Union and Orlando Jones stood up for the teen.
Don't give a drop what race she is! Black as night or transparent – a SCHOOLGIRL tossed on her ass by a GROWN MAN/COP for petty misbehavior!
— Jeffrey Wright (@jfreewright) October 28, 2015
No CHILD should be brutalized for simply behaving like a child. We should all be sickened & outraged #springvalleyassault
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) October 27, 2015
Disgusted (but not surprised) by the #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh. Commence victim blaming in 5-4-3-2…
— Orlando Jones (@TheOrlandoJones) October 26, 2015
i can't unsee what i just saw. #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh
— octavia spencer (@octaviaspencer) October 26, 2015
Heart breaking. Ridiculous. #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) October 27, 2015
— jesseWilliams. (@iJesseWilliams) October 26, 2015
But they arrested the person video taping. https://t.co/Fvl2ktg1B5
— Reagan Gomez (@ReaganGomez) October 28, 2015
TV personalities and journalists Jemele Hill and Roland S. Martin also weighed in.
Sheriff Lott might as well have added the officer listens to Al Green, and enjoys potato salad.
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) October 27, 2015
— rolandsmartin (@rolandsmartin) October 27, 2015
CNN contributor, journalist and attorney Sunny Hostin was at the center of a disagreement with CNN anchor Don Lemon over the case. Hostin believed wholeheartedly that the officer used excessive force when he was met with none at all. Lemon, on the other hand, wanted to know what happen before the articulation.
Blaming the 16 yr old student for the force used against her. https://t.co/dbxVJcbpzC
— Sunny Hostin (@SunnyHostin) October 28, 2015
As the incident went national, politicians began to look at the details of the case.
— Congressmember Bass (@RepKarenBass) October 27, 2015
— Lauren Victoria (@LVBurke) October 27, 2015
— Martin O'Malley (@MartinOMalley) October 27, 2015
There is no excuse for violence inside a school. The #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh is unacceptable—schools should be safe places. -H
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 27, 2015
Welcome to the school-to-prison pipeline! This unjust criminalization of our youth has to end. #AssaultatSpringValleyHigh
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) October 27, 2015
The parallels between Black celebrities during the civil rights era and now in the #BlackLivesMatter era are eerily uncanny. Actors and entertainers like Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Nina Simone, and many others have paved the way for today’s fearless celebrity voices that are willing to speak truth and power.