This week Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were the two most recent victims to die at the hands of police officers, bringing the number of black people killed by police so far in 2016 to at least 136 individuals.
Castile was shot Wednesday night in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis, while in the car with his fiancé and four year old daughter. While details in the death of Castile are still coming out, the facts that have emerged on the killing of Sterling are nothing short of horrific and disturbing.
A graphic video filmed Tuesday night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana shows two white police officers violently forcing Sterling to the ground before shooting him in the chest and back at close range.
The officers claimed that Sterling reached for a gun, but a second video shows that the weapon remained untouched in his pocket until police removed it while Sterling lay dying. Louisiana allows individuals to openly carry firearms in public without a permit, highlighting the explicit racial bias in the officer’s actions.
The officer’s body cameras, which were put on their uniforms to document the exact details of incidents such as this one, had allegedly fallen from their uniforms and did not record the killing.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI, and the United States attorney’s office in Baton Rouge have taken over the investigation.
“Alton Sterling was a father,” wrote Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong. “The mother of his children will have to support her family even though Black women only make 64 cents on the dollar. His children will grow up knowing that their father was taken from them by a racist and broken criminal justice system that sees Black men as criminals and the lives of Black people as expendable. This is what reproductive oppression looks like. And this is what we fight to dismantle every day.”
Young black men are nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by a police officer. In 2015, black men between the ages of 15-34 comprised more than 15% of all deaths by police officers, despite making up only 2% of the population. Government mortality data finds that one in every 65 deaths of young black men in America occurs at the hands of the police.
Protests are occurring across the country, from Chicago to Dallas, to show solidarity against police violence and the indiscriminate killing of young black men and women. Police in Philadelphia arrested a dozen protesters after they blocked traffic on I-676 Wednesday. Outside the governor’s mansion in Minnesota, residents demanding action covered the gate around the property in yellow police line tape. A rally is planned Thursday evening in front of the White House to demand an end to police brutality.