Police Killing of Black People in the US: A New Terrorism?
Alton Sterling and Philando Castille are the latest Black victims at the hands of police in the United States. Sterling was shot multiple times in the chest and back while he was being held on the ground, while Castille was shot during a routine traffice stop.
The wave of police murders of unarmed Black men and women is a constant reminder of the harsh, life-threatening reality faced by Black communities in the United States. In 2015 alone, around 965 people were fatally shot by U.S. police, according to a Washington Post study – with Black and Latino people disproportionately the victims.
Among the movements that have spurred from these recent string of high profile cases, some are referring to the situation as “police terrorism,” speaking to the fear and anxiety among racialized communities about police violence and systemic racism.
These killings are part of a long legacy of racism in the United States. teleSUR remembers just a few of the hundreds killed by U.S. police forces.
Police Brutality in Numbers
Alton Sterling Shot Dead While Being Held on the Ground
The 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot multiple times in the chest and back while he was being held on the ground. The attack in Louisiana was captured on video camera. In the clip, an officer can be heard yelling “get on the ground,” and then the officer is seen charging at Sterling, grabbing him and tackling him onto the pavement. READ MORE
Freddie Gray, Victim of Police Terrorism
Freddie Gray’s death in Baltimore in 2014 led to nationwide protests against police brutality and institutionalized racism. The 25-year-old Black man died from extreme spinal injuries after being arrested by Baltimore police, shackled to a van and taken for what is known as a “rough ride.” Of the six officers standing trial for manslaughter and other charges, three have been acquitted. READ MORE
Sandra Bland, Killed over a Traffic Ticket
Bland was arrested July 10, 2015 after being pulled over by a state trooper for allegedly making an improper lane change. According to dashcam video footage, the interaction between Bland and the trooper became confrontational when Bland refused to get out of her car, with the official pointing a stun gun at the woman and yelling “I will light you up!” Bland spent three days in a jail in Waller County, Texas after she was unable to pay the US$500 bail. On the third day she was found dead in her cell. No jail employees were indicted for her death. READ MORE
Officer Kills 12-Year-Old Boy in Park, Doesn’t Get Charged
12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by police in Cleveland in 2014. The city of Cleveland agreed to pay US$6 million to the family of Tamir Rice, who was shot while holding a toy gun in a public park. A grand jury cleared the officer responsible of all charges. READ MORE
Shot 12 Times and Left to Die on Street
Michael Brown was killed in 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The unarmed Black teen was shot 12 times by Officer Wilson.The incident launched Ferguson into the spotlight as a symbol of the then-emerging nationwide movement against police brutality. Solidarity protests also sprung up across the country, with activists popularizing the rallying cry “Black Lives Matter” in their fight against police violence and bringing attention to the structural discrimination against Black people in local police forces and the larger U.S. criminal justice system. READ MORE
‘I Can’t Breathe!’
Eric Garner was wrestled to the ground by Officer Daniel Pantaleo after he refused to be handcuffed for selling loose cigarettes on the street on Staten Island in New York. In a video of the attack, his voice was clearly heard as he repeatedly said “I can’t breathe,” while Pantaleo applied an illegal chokehold on him. The father of six, who was unarmed, lost consciousness and died one hour later. A grand jury did not to indict Pantaleo. READ MORE