People’s chants of “no justice, no peace” echoed along the streets of Baton Rouge, Wynwood, Ft. Lauderdale, downtown Milwaukee, and other cities across the nation as they stood together in solidarity and in protest of the latest black lives taken by the police: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
On July 5, the Baton Rouge Police Department in Louisiana received an anonymous caller accusing a man of threatening him with a gun. The man was Alton Sterling, who was selling CDs outside a convenience store.
Two officers responded to the call which quickly ended in a deadly altercation. Video footage shows one of the officers shooting and killing Sterling as he appeared to lie unarmed and pinned against the floor.
It wasn’t long before another black man was killed. The very next day, Philando Castile was stopped in Falcon Heights, Minnesota for a broken tail light. Castile’s fiancé, Diamond Reynolds, recalled the event to the authorities: Castile informed the officer that he had a gun in the car with a concealed carry permit as he reached for his license and registration.
According to Reynolds, the officer opened fire, shooting Castile four or five times. Reynolds recorded the aftermath in a Facebook Live video, where it went viral.
The issue of racial profiling has become the forefront of debates as the deaths of African-American men and women have occurred in the hands of law enforcement.
Philando Castile had been stopped by the police for more than 50 violations from speeding to improperly displaying a license plate. He had been cited by the police at least 31 times while driving. People speculate that this wouldn’t be the case if it weren’t for his skin color.
“We want people to know ‘driving while black’ has been an issue ― drivers pulled over for implicit bias,” Rashad Turner, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis organizer, told the Huffington Post.
The BlackLivesMatter political and social movement began after the controversial deaths of Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice. The shootings’ footage and details have raised public awareness and concern as to whether the force used was justified. None of the deaths have resulted in convictions against the police officers involved, leading to increased outrage and protests.
Shortly after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, people staged a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas. This protest, however, quickly turned into chaos as five police officers were shot by a sniper who reportedly said he wanted to kill white officers specifically. Seven officers and two civilians were injured during the shooting.
The pain of these deaths, both black and white, was felt all the way to South Florida. On Saturday night, three protests took place: in Wynwood, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach. Nearly 600 people attended the Fort Lauderdale protest that took place from Stranahan Park to the main Broward County Jail.
“The protest started off a bit confusing as people continued gathering. It was during Art Walk so I had to make sure the group of people standing were for the march. That confusion aside, the march turned out to be the best I’ve covered,” said Joel Franco, a citizen journalist from Miami.
“It remained peaceful, cops stayed back and it took a life of its own. From shutting down Biscayne Blvd in front of AAA for an hour to shutting down I-195, the crowd was full of energy the entire time.”
Hundreds of South Florida residents gathered throughout the city to show their support for the BlackLivesMatter movement. For many, these recent events have opened old wounds as residents remember the police riots of the 1980s to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012.
Nonetheless, the violent scenes that have erupted across the United States have deeply divided the nation, creating a heated debate over racial tensions, police brutality, and injustice in a country that claims to be one of opportunity, hope and freedom.