Violence grips US again as police kill another black man

Updated 15 Jun 2020

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Rayshard Brooks was shot dead by police outside a Wendy’s outlet in Atlanta after he was found sleeping in the restaurant’s drive-through area. — AFP/File
Rayshard Brooks was shot dead by police outside a Wendy’s outlet in Atlanta after he was found sleeping in the restaurant’s drive-through area. — AFP/File

WASHINGTON: “We are done dying,” declared the National Associ­ation for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) as violence re-erupted across America on Sunday over death of yet another African-American man, this time by police shooting.

Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot dead by police on Friday night outside a Wendy’s outlet in Atlanta, Georgia, after he was found sleeping in the restaurant’s drive-through area.

“We do not have the full right to live in this country,” said NAACP, one of the largest civil rights groups in America, while urging people to join its campaign against racism. “Business as usual may cost us our livelihoods and our lives.”

Civil rights activists are trying to change social attitudes in America, particularly towards the African-American community. The movement gained momentum late last month when a policeman choked George Floyd to death in Minneapolis as dozens watched and filmed the incident.

The police cruelty stunned the American nation, causing countrywide protests that were the most intense in Minneapolis and in the nation’s capital, Washington. Tens of thousands of whites joined the protest, although Floyd was an African-American.

But appeals for peace, and the fear of a resurgence of Covid-19, eased the tensions until this weekend when Brooks’ death re-ignited the fire. The backlash started with a video that showed Brooks resisting arrest and then running away from two police officers after snatching a taser.

One of the officers chased Brooks and fired several shots into him after he turned the device, which is used to stun a detainee, towards the officer.

A crowd gathered outside the restaurant on Saturday and set it on fire, as an estimated 1,000 protesters watched it burning. Protesters then walked to a nearby highway, stopping traffic.

They locked arms, chanting “black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe,” slogans popularised during the protest against Floyd’s killing.

“I can’t breathe,” were Floyd’s last words and of another African-American, Eric Garner, who died in police custody in Staten Island, New York, in July 2014. He repeated the words 11 times before he died.

These words have now become an international rallying cry against racism as people across the globe continue to express solidarity with the protesters in the United States.

In Atlanta, police made several attempts to disperse the crowd and made dozens of arrests, but the demonstrations continued till Sunday morning. A small group emerged later and set the Wendy’s on fire again. Others spread out to various neighbourhoods.

As the unrest continued, the Atlanta Police Department fired officer Garrett Rolfe, who shot Brooks, and placed his partner, Devin Bronsan, on administrative duty.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that police chief Erika Shields had also resigned. “I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force,” she said.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2020