Police Murder of Walter Scott: Window into Lives of Black People in North Charleston

by Li Onesto | April 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


After the cold-blooded murder of Walter Scott by North Charleston cop Michael Slager, a representative of Scott’s family said, “This was a cop who felt like he could get away with just shooting anybody that many times in the back.” Walter Scott Sr., appearing on the Today Show, said, “The way he [Slager] was shooting that gun, it looked like he was trying to kill a deer...”

Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP, was one of those protesting in front of City Hall on March 8, the day after the video of Walter Scott’s shooting became public. She told the Guardian news, “We see police officers saying they fear for their lives, but black men need to be fleeing from officers because you never know when you get these kinds of officers.”

There IS an epidemic of police murder of Black and Latino people in this country—with the police walking free in almost every instance. And among Black people in North Charleston, there is a widespread feeling—more than a feeling, an understanding based on real-life experience—that the police murder of Walter Scott is not an isolated incident. Muhiyidin Moye D’Baha, an organizer with the activist group Black Lives Matter, said, “This is something that exists within a system down here.” Otha Meadows, who has lived in the city for nine years and is president of the local chapter of the Urban League, said, “The community has felt that those shootings have gone on deaf ears and been swept under the rug.”

In fact, The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, found that during a five-year period, police in South Carolina fired their weapons at 209 people—only a few of these cops were even accused of a crime and NONE were convicted.

Just like the murder of Michael Brown shined a light on the whole oppressive situation of Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, the murder of Walter Scott provides a window into the daily DANGER Black people face, where at any moment they can be stopped by the police, supposedly for something like a broken tail light, and the next moment they can be tased, beaten bloody or lying dead on the ground.

When protesters gathered at South Charleston City Hall, they spoke out about their experiences of being discriminated and harassed by the police. Some of the youth talked about how they can’t even count on their hands the number of times they have been profiled and stopped by the police.

Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?

"Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?" is a clip from the film REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. The film is of the November 2014 historic Dialogue on a question of great importance in today's world between the Revolutionary Christian Cornel West and the Revolutionary Communist Bob Avakian. Watch the entire film here.

Tyeesha Aiken, one of the protesters said, “Raising two boys here, I’m afraid of sending them to school, because the police are not there to protect and serve.” She has just completed a degree in criminal justice, but told the Guardian that she is now rethinking her career because she does not trust law enforcement. Dot Scott and the North Charleston NAACP have spoken out against the stop-and-frisk policy of the police, which they say opens the door to racial profiling. They are still waiting for answers in the June 2014 incident when Denzel “Jaba” Curnell, 19, died from a bullet wound to the head after an encounter with a South Carolina cop. The cop says he stopped Curnell because he suspected him of “criminal activity.” Why? Because it was 85 degrees and Curnell was wearing a hooded sweatshirt. The police say Curnell committed suicide. The police have a tape from a surveillance camera with a gap in the footage due to, they say, a motion sensor. It shows the cop stopping Curnell but then skips ahead to after Curnell has been pinned down on the ground by the cop and there is gunfire.

The Standard Script

Appearing on CNN, Defense Attorney Mark Geragos talked about the bigger picture the Walter Scott murder reveals. He said, “The police always come up with the same thing, it’s like a standard script that they teach at police university 101: always say that there is a threat, always say that he reached for your gun, and then say he wrestled for your gun. This is an epidemic in the various communities of the U.S. And unless somebody sees it with their own eyes—this is what’s so crazy about it—they will not believe that this is possible.... You know, my father was a prosecutor for many years [and] used to say, there’s more guys in state prison for broken tail lights than any other offense. Broken tail light means go hassle somebody of color.”

And in North Charleston, a city that is about 48 percent Black and 42 percent white, Black drivers were are pulled over twice as often as whites, according to state law enforcement data of all stops that did not lead to an arrest or ticket.

The Danger of Driving, Walking and Eating While Black

A “routine traffic stop” means something completely different for Black people in North Charleston and in cities and towns across the USA. It can mean anything from being humiliated, jacked up, unjustly given hundreds of dollars in fines...to being beaten up or shot in the back and killed.

Dorothy Williams has been on the city council for 24 years and says she hears the same story over and over about how people are pulled over for not signaling, for a registration tag that wasn’t visible or for a broken taillight—then asked to consent to a search. She says, “Then it escalates. If you say no, they arrest you for disorderly conduct, or worse. As Rev. Thomas Dixon, an African American community organizer in North Charleston said, “If you fit the profile, you are going to be pulled over.” (Reading Eagle, April 10, 2015)

There are so many stories. When news reporters talk to Black people in North Charleston the stories pour out. People talk about officers stopping them for minor violations or for nothing, then assaulting them, using Taser stun guns on them for no reason and more.

Alicia Delesline, 48, has been living in North Charleston her whole life. She says it was about five years ago when she stopped trusting the police. She was walking to the store then changed her mind and turned around. This was enough for a police officer to deem her “suspicious.” They accused her of turning around because she saw authorities up ahead. Delesline said, “They just rolled up and bothered me for no reason and searched me. They serve and protect when they feel like serving and protecting. But when they feel like harassing, they do that.” (New York Times, April 9, 2015)

James Randolph owns Pete & Rita’s Café in North Charleston. He was out there on the steps of City Hall protesting the day after the video came out. He spoke out about how the police have targeted his place as well as other Black-run businesses for zoning violations, which he says is done to collect revenue for the city. Randolph says the police come in on busy nights, issue zoning violation tickets of up to $1,100 a piece and try to shut them down. He said he’d even been ticketed by Slager. Randolph told the Guardian news, “If they can harass and antagonize someone like me, imagine what the young brothers go through that I see every time in [Charleston County Court] go through.” (Guardian, April 8 and wltx.com)

Brian Knite Yates, a 28-year-old Black veteran, says after a traffic stop in 2008, he was unnecessarily assaulted and tased by a white police officer. Yates was at his mother’s house in Ladson when he got a call from his wife that his daughter was sick and needed to go to the doctor. He was driving to go pick up his wife and daughter when he was pulled over, even though he says he was following all traffic laws. The police incident report says Yates was pulled over for reasons including “loud bass and music coming from his car.” According to Yates the cop ordered him out of the car, then twisted his arm and tased him in the back. Police and court records show that the officer deployed his taser three times. Yates was originally charged with loud noise from a vehicle, no driver’s license in possession, and resisting arrest/disorderly conduct—charges that were later dropped. Brian Yates is now suing the City and the North Charleston Police Department. On Friday, April 10, 35-year-old Garnett Wilson filed a lawsuit, saying that Michael Slager, the same cop who killed Walter Scott, shot him in the back with a stun gun while other cops held him down. The filing alleges federal civil rights claims and violations of state laws and in addition to naming the two officers involved also names the North Charleston Police Department and Chief Eddie Driggers. The incident, as with so many other cases of police brutality and murder, began with a traffic stop. John Gentry III, Wilson’s attorney, said his client had his hands above his head and wasn’t resisting when the officers held him down on the ground. Then as two cops prepared to handcuff Wilson, Slager stood over Wilson and told the others, “Watch out! I’m going to tase!” Wilson was then arrested and charged with driving with a suspended license—the charge was later dropped.


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