This Thursday, a National Moment of Silence will be held in cities across the country to remember the lives lost and impacted by police brutality. In the wake of two deadly police-involved shootings in less than a week, online activist Feminista Jones and individual Twitter followers were able to coordinate the event in a single day.
Mounting tension over increased acts of deadly force by law enforcement agencies across the country brimmed over this weekend, following only the most recent deaths at the hands of police officers.
Last Wednesday, the Dayton Daily News first reported the shooting death of 22-year-old John Crawford by police at an Ohio WalMart. Ronald Ritchie, another shopper, called 911 after seeing Crawford with an air gun in the store. LeeCee Johnson, the mother of Crawford’s children, told the Dayton Daily News she was on the phone with Crawford when he was killed. “He said he was at the video games playing videos and he went over there by the toy section where the toy guns were. And the next thing I know, he said, ‘It’s not real,’ and the police start shooting and they said ‘Get on the ground,’ but he was already on the ground because they had shot him.”
Saturday, 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed following, what St. Louis County Police said, was a physical altercation between Brown and the officer. The unarmed teen was shot multiple times by local police. He was slated to begin classes at Vatterott College in Missouri on Monday. Hundreds of residents in Ferguson built a small memorial outside of a news conference updating the details of Brown’s death, but images of overnight riots dominated mainstream news coverage of the community’s response. Critics of the coverage took to social media, comparing the photos of destruction in Ferguson to racist coverage of other major news events, and unflattering images of the deceased to the photos circulated following the death of Trayvon Martin.
In a statement issued by the St. Louis NAACP, Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO said, “The death of yet another African-American at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve the community where he lived is heartbreaking. Michael Brown was preparing to begin college, and now his family is preparing to bury their child – his life cut short in a tragic encounter with the police.” The organization will lead a local vigil in Missouri today, but Brooks called on the community to act “collectively and calmly” while the state and national branches pursued further investigation of the incident.
The #NMOS14 organizers hope Thursday’s event will provide some means to channel still-raw emotions. “People are hurting right now. People are angry. People are seeking understanding and compassion,” Feminista Jones said in a tweet yesterday. “It is a small gesture (in my opinion) but one that could tangibly unify us, ALL of us, as a launching pad for further action,” she said.
The event will also acknowledge other victims of police brutality, including the recent choking death of Eric Garner in New York City at the hands of the NYPD. Garner was unarmed when police attempted to arrest him on suspicion of selling untaxed, loose cigarettes.
Still, many hope the outrage over the use of excessive force extends to African American women recently attacked by police. In July, a 51-year-old homeless grandmother, Marlene Pinnock, was brutally beaten by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer. In the video, the CHP officer is seen repeatedly punching Pinnock in the head as she lay on the ground. Just last week, cell phone video began circulating of NYPD officers ruthlessly dragging a naked 48-year-old Brooklyn grandmother out of her apartment. According to news reports, the officers were at the wrong residence, but neighbors can be heard shouting for a female officer to intervene.
Media Resources: Dayton Daily News 8/6/14; T.J. Holmes on Twitter.com 8/10/14; St. Louis Post-Dispatch 8/11/14; Washington Post 8/11/14; CBS-St. Louis 8/11/14; Feminista Jones on Storify.com 8/11/14; NPR 7/29/14; CBS-Los Angeles 8/10/14; Salon.com 8/3/14