Protests erupted in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday of last week after police shot dead black man Keith Scott.
Keith, who had been waiting to pick his son up from school, suffered a traumatic brain injury.
The protests have been taking place despite curfews and a state of emergency that was declared last Wednesday night.
Sonya Patrick, a Black Lives Matter activist from nearby Wilmington, was there. She told Socialist Worker, “Young people have come out in their thousands.” This is in comparison to the few hundred that usually protest after police brutality cases.
“The press are quick to call looters savages but not the law enforcement that are shooting unarmed people,” she said. “The system is corrupt and it’s the ones who control it that are barbaric.
“They’re the terrorists.”
The savagery of the police attack has motivated people—and so has the lack of response from the establishment.
Sonya said, “The state of North Carolina has done nothing and the president can’t do anything without congressional consent.” She went on to criticise Barack Obama for his silence.
The mayor of Charlotte told presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to cancel a scheduled visit. Her rival Donald Trump said that “drugs are a very, very big factor” in the Charlotte protests, a statement he later withdrew.
Police initially refused to release their footage of the shooting, in violation of federal regulations. This became a central demand of the protests.
Cops claimed that Keith had a gun and a “marijuana cigarette”.
When they finally released the footage last Sunday, it seemed to show that Keith was not armed, had his hands lowered and was calm before he was shot.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police chief Kerr Putney claimed, “People can interpret anything they want based on one piece of evidence.”
Keith’s family dispute the police version of events. In particular they have suggested that what cops claim was a gun was more likely a book.
Another video taken on a phone by Rakeyia Scott, Keith’s wife, does not show any object where police claimed to have found a gun.
This has raised concerns that the police may have placed it there. On the video Rakeyia can clearly be heard asking the police not to shoot her husband. There is then a burst of gunshots.
Keith’s death has stirred memories of the killing of Jonathan Ferrell. The 24 year old was shot 10 times by white Charlotte cop Randall Kerrick three years ago.
Kerrick was charged with voluntary manslaughter, but the case ended in a hung jury and a mistrial. Prosecutors decided not to retry him, and the case was dismissed.
The current epidemic of killings by police is bringing to a head anger against an establishment that always ruled through racism. Sonya said, “This is not a new problem, we are dealing with an oppressor. They’ve come up with another system because people started fighting back.”
Figure it out
10 more people died at the hands of the police in the seven days after Keith’s killing, according to the Guardian newspaper’s database The Counted
795 lives have been lost after contact with police this year
The United Nations working group of experts on people of African descent points out that police violence is causing more deaths of black people than lynching did in its worst year