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Two Black Men, #PhilandoCastile and #AltonSterling, Killed in Back-to-Back Police Shootings: Is This the New Form of Lynching?

Philando Castile family photo (Facebook)

Philando Castile family photo (Facebook)

What happens when you have two people, a Black man and a white police officer — both nervous — and the one with the authority is trigger-happy? This scenario has played itself out in back-to-back cases of police violence.

Another Black man has been killed by police. This time a Minnesota man was shot to death in his car while showing the police his ID, and the victim’s girlfriend captured the entire aftermath on her cellphone camera. This, as a Black man was killed by police outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

In Falcon Heights, Minnesota, outside of Minneapolis, Philando Castile — a cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul school — and his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds were stopped by police for a broken taillight. Castile, who was licensed to carry a firearm, was shot by the officer as he reached for his license and registration. Reynolds captured the entire aftermath of the shooting on her cellphone, perhaps saving her own life in the process. She live-streamed the incident on Facebook, with her 4-year-old daughter in the backseat. Reynolds calmly and professionally engages with the officer, who is clearly nervous.

Castile had no previous run-ins with the law, according to CNN. Moreover, Castile had complied with the officer when asked for his identification, according to Reynolds, and told the officer ahead of time that he had a firearm in his possession.

Valerie Castile, the mother of the victim, told CNN that she emphasized to her children that they should respect law enforcement, in an effort to keep them alive.

“I always told him, ‘Whatever you do, when you get stopped by the police: Comply. Comply, comply, comply,’ ” she said. “Comply — that’s the key thing in order to try to survive being stopped by the police.”

“I had never thought my son would be killed by the person who was supposed to take care of him,” she added.

This latest episode only underscores the problem of trigger-happy police officers, ingrained by society to have an innate fear and hatred of Black men.  And in their cowardice — armed with racial hysteria, lack of proper training and a gun — their actions have fatal consequences for Black people.  Apparently, it matters little even as Black people do the right thing, stay calm and comply with the authorities, when the police already have anticipated and planned their killing.  Complying with the police will not necessarily keep you safe when the police are complying with white supremacy and racial violence, and see a criminal in the eyes of every Black man, woman and child they encounter.

Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a Black man was killed by police Tuesday in a case that sounds eerily similar to the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York. Alton Sterling, 37, a father of five, was tackled, tasered and shot by police multiple times in the chest and back outside a convenience store. Two separate videos from bystanders captured the shooting, including one captured by the store owner Abdullah Muflahi.

As The Huffington Post reported, Sterling had sold CDs in front of the store for years. Muflahi said Sterling had recently carried a gun in the past few days, after a friend who also sells CDs was robbed. Louisiana is an open-carry state.

“The individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis,” said Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling’s 15-year-old son Cameron, at a press conference, the boy standing beside her and crying inconsolably. “As this video has been shared across the world, you will see with your own eyes how he was handled unjustly and killed without regard for the lives that he helped raise,” she said.

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department is conducting an investigation into the killing of Alton Sterling. The U.S. attorney’s office in Baton Rouge, the FBI and state police also will be involved in the investigation, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

Cameron Sterling, 15, son of Alton Sterling, with his mother Quinyetta McMillon

Cameron Sterling, 15, son of Alton Sterling, with his mother Quinyetta McMillon

In the midst of Sterling’s death, some are attempting to blame the victim and Black protesters. James Durdin, the father-in-law of Blane Salamoni, one of the two officers involved in Sterling’s death, has attempted to change the subject and point the finger at #BlackLivesMatter activists.  As was reported by The New York Daily News, Durdin claimed Black protesters were “making an agenda” out of police violence.

“It burns my you-know-what when it’s ― usually the black people ― that try to make an agenda out of this,” Durdin said. “What I’d like to see is them with no police at all, so they can know what it’s like not to have them … The majority of [cops] would never be abusive. Does anyone give a you-know-what about that? We’ll have social chaos [without cops].”

Meanwhile, CNN chose a mugshot of Sterling in reporting his death, rather than using current Facebook photos of the slain man that were available.  As was the case with Michael Brown in Ferguson and other Black men killed by police, the media have been criticized for using mugshots of police shooting victims and attempting to criminalize them by delving into their possible criminal histories.

Sterling’s death comes after the Louisiana legislature passed a “Blue Lives Matter” law making it a hate crime to target police officers. Signed into law by Edwards in May and taking effect in August, the statute allows for an additional six months in prison and a $500 fine for a misdemeanor offense, and up to an extra five years in prison with hard labor and a $5,000 fine for a felony, according to Think Progress.

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