More than 50 frustrated protesters in Fresno attempt to walk on the freeway to continue their march on Saturday, July 9, 2016.
Fresno Police Department push back protesters from the 41 S. freeway Bullard entrance.
Americans, from sea to shining sea, are debating, protesting, marching and lighting candles in response to the spat of deadly shootings that gripped the nation late last week.
The conversation about law enforcement’s frictional interactions with the Black community is just as heated in the Golden State.
In Inglewood, Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento, there have been demonstrations protesting police violence against African Americans. The rallies are being organized in response to police shooting deaths of an African-American man in Louisiana on July 5 and another Black man in Minnesota a day later.
Video of the incidents posted on social media sites incited outrage in Black communities across the nation.
Royce Esters, head of Compton-based National Association for Equal Justice In America (NAEJIA) said the deaths of 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and 32-year-old Philando Castile in St. Paul, Minn., reveal an unconscious hatred some police officers have towards black men.
“They are afraid of black people, which doesn’t make sense,” said the civil rights activist. “This has been going on since the Jim Crow Era in the 40s and it hasn’t stopped.”
Frustrations over Sterling and Castile’s deaths have had the nation in a tailspin, stoking heated debates about race and policing. Pair that with 25-year-old African-American gunman Micah Johnson’s brazen murder of five police officers at the close of a July 7 anti-police brutality march in downtown Dallas and tensions have been raised to an elevated level across the country.
Sterling’s death was recorded by witnesses and loaded online, while the bloody aftermath of Castile’s shooting was live streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend. Several people at the Dallas rally recorded video and photos of Johnson’s rampage against police and loaded it onto social media as well.
Esters said he believes the relationship between the Black community and police is just as bad as the relationship between the two groups during the Civil Rights Movement, but social media is playing a key role in documenting current interactions.
“The difference is now everyone has cellphones and can take pictures,” he said. “How many times did the police kill people and say they had a gun, but didn’t have a gun probably back then? The problem is just as bad now, but there are cellphones today.”
During the three-day period of shootings, cellphone video was also put online of the late June shooting death of Dyan Noble in Fresno. A video shows the unarmed, white 19-year-old being shot by Fresno police.
Rappers The Game and Snoop Dogg, both Los Angeles area natives, used social media to spread word of a unification march for men of color at the Los Angeles Police Department’s new officer graduation a day after the incident in Dallas.
About 50 African-American and Hispanic men joined the hip-hop artists at the march, where protesters chanted and the rappers met with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and police chief Charlie Beck.
Snoop Dogg, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, said the rally was held to reintroduce communities of color to the LAPD and to start a dialogue.
“We’re the ones they’re going to be dealing with. We’re the ones that are going to be pulled over,” the rapper said.
Snoop Dogg told police officers “respect is key.”
“Think about the person you’re pulling over, their family,” he said. “Because that way, you’ll have more of a consideration of life and de-escalate as opposed to escalate.”
The Game said he was leading the march as a community leader and human being. The hip-hop artist, whose legal name is Jayceon Terrell Taylor, said he was saddened by the shootings in Dallas and angered about shootings in Minnesota, Louisiana and Fresno.
“The cops that died in Dallas weren’t the cops that shot and killed Philando or Alton,” he said. “As much as Philando and Alton didn’t deserve that, those cops in Dallas didn’t deserve that. And the only thing I could think of was to initiate peace on both sides, so that’s why I’m here.”
Other rallies were held in the state. A Black Lives Matter protest in Oakland resulted in about 1,000 demonstrators blocking traffic on the 880 Freeway for several hours the night after Castile was killed in Minnesota. Two evenings later, protesters blocked traffic on the 405 in Inglewood for about ten minutes. Police did not rush to break-up the rallies at either scene.
ONME News journalist Julia Dudley Najieb narrates play by play of the local protest in Fresno, CA as emotionally charged citizens head toward the freeway. Watch full video below.
Esters said holding rallies and protests are great, but more needs to be done. The community activist said members of the Black community need to meet with law enforcement officials and improve how police officers are trained.
Esters said the root of the problem is a general unconscious hatred directed at Blacks, particularly African-American men. Esters mentioned an incident reported in the news recently where police stopped a White machete-wielding man without hurting him.
“If that was a Black man they would have shot him,” Esters said. “They really don’t know why they hate the Black male. It’s some kind of fear. What white people get away with; we can’t get away with as Black males.”
Esters continued: “Its unconscious hatred. If you ask a police officer, ‘Why did you beat that Black man?’ They can’t tell you. They say, ‘Well, he is Black,, and he looks threatening.’”
The NAEJIA founder also said the officers who shoot unarmed, unthreatening black men need to be held accountable, if not by jail time, by lawsuits. He noted that his organization will be representing an African-American man in Riverside who said police officers unjustly removed him from his home, beat him, drew guns on him and called him a racial slur.
“We are going after anyone who is out here beating up Black people, shooting Black people,” Esters said. “They are going to hear from us.”
Fresno Brown Berets organize a peaceful protest & rally to inform the public of the local brown and black lives who died from police shootings, and of the policies they want changed in regards to police procedure to kill at will. Watch full video below.