The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Protesting an Outrageous Verdict

Jun 19, 2017

Thousands of people have been protesting the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez, the cop who shot and killed Philando Castile last July in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. Yanez's lawyer said in court that on the day of the shooting, Yanez pulled Castile over because he believed he matched the description of a robbery suspect and had a faulty brake light. Castile was carrying a gun, which he had a legal permit to do. He told Yanez he had a weapon in the car. But seconds later, Yanez fired into the car several times. Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was next to him and her 4-year-old daughter was in the backseat. Castile's arm was practically shot off, and he was killed. Reynolds used a cell phone to video and live-stream this horrific attack, so that it was witnessed live by millions.

Now, with this despicable verdict, thousands have returned to the streets in protest. They raised their fists and carried signs saying: "Unite for Philando" and "Corrupt systems only corrupt."

Castile was one of 963 people who police fatally shot last year, according to a Washington Post database tracking such shootings. The cop was charged because of Diamond Reynolds' dramatic broadcast seen world-wide and because of subsequent protests.

Police are seldom charged for on-duty shootings. And convictions are even more rare. Something or someones have to force the issue.

This was another show trial in the wake of other show trials. Trials to calm people's outrage, not trials to change the way things are. In Baltimore, six police officers charged in the aftermath of civil unrest were acquitted, charges dropped. Mistrials were declared last year in two other high profile police shootings that, like Castile's death, followed traffic stops and included recordings widely shared. In South Carolina, jurors deadlocked in the case of Michael Slager, a former police officer who fatally shot Walter Scott in the back.

People are right to be in the streets. If there is a hope of the population changing things, it will take this kind of reaction immediately to every transgression the police bring.