Millions of people saw the sickening video of Philando Castile bleeding to death in his car on July 6, 2016. Police officer Jeronimo Yanez shot at the Black man seven times after stopping him in Falcon Heights, Minn., a suburb of St. Paul.
Millions heard Castile’s friend Diamond Reynolds scream, “Please don’t tell me that he’s gone. Please officer don’t tell me that you just did this to him. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.” (Associated Press, July 7, 2016)
And now millions of people are outraged that on June 16 Yanez was found “not guilty” of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm.
Both Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter, who were in the car, could have been killed, too. After seeing her boyfriend shot, Reynolds was handcuffed by police.
“The system continues to fail black people,” said Valerie Castile, the mother of Philando Castile. (Huffington Post, June 16) One hundred sixty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision, Black people still have, in the words of the ruling, “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
The night of the verdict over 2,000 people took to the streets of St. Paul, starting at the state Capitol. The #Justice4Philando Emergency Unity Response was initiated by many local organizations. (Fight Back News, June 16)
People blocked Interstate 94 and the light rail line. “No justice, no peace, prosecute the police” was one of the chants. Eighteen people were arrested. (CNN, June 16)
Six hundred people marched through Harlem, N.Y., on June 17. They started at 116th Street and Malcolm X Boulevard and finally reached Trump Tower in midtown. New York police continually tried to block the demonstrators.
Black Teamster lives matter
Philando Castile was a worker and member of Teamsters Local 320. He had been employed in St. Paul public school cafeterias for 14 years. At the time of his assassination, Castile was nutrition services supervisor at the J.J. Hill Montessori Magnet School.
Children loved Philando. “He was [as] much a teacher than any teacher in that building,” said Joan Edman, a retired worker at the school. “He remembered their names. He remembered who couldn’t have milk. He knew what they could have to eat and what they couldn’t,” said Edman, who added that “five hundred real children are directly impacted.”
“He was just a nice, caring person who worked at the school, who should not be dead,” said Andrew Karre, whose 8-year-old son attends the Montessori school. (Time, July 7, 2016)
None of this mattered to police, who stopped Philando Castile 52 times in 14 years. (New York Daily News, July 9, 2016) Driving while Black is a real offense, and for Castile it carried the death penalty.
‘Whites only’ Second Amendment
Philando Castile told officer Yanez that he had a gun which he was licensed to carry. (Chicago Tribune, July 14, 2016) As Castile was complying with the officer’s request for identification, Yanez killed him.
Don’t African Americans have the Second Amendment right to possess firearms?
In fact, Black people are denied even the right to self-defense. Seventeen-year-old Black sharecropper Samuel Osborne was confronted in his South Carolina shack by white landlord William Walker on Aug. 17, 1941. Walker was drunk and carrying a .32 caliber pistol.
In justified fear for his life, Osborne reached for his rifle and killed his cracker boss. Osborne’s right to self-defense didn’t matter to Judge Strom Thurmond, who sentenced Osborne to the electric chair. (Lars-Eric Nelson column, New York Daily News, Jan 8, 1999)
Super-racist Thurmond would later be elected South Carolina governor and also spend 46 years in the U.S. Senate. Thurmond’s support was vital to putting Richard Nixon in the White House.
Every time cops kill an unarmed person they claim they are in fear for their lives. But killing a drunken racist who was pointing a gun at him sent Samuel Osborne to the electric chair. The Black teenager was executed on Nov. 19, 1943.
Four months later, the Palmetto State electrocuted 14-year-old Black child George Junius Stinney, whose trial on phony murder charges lasted just two hours.
California Gov. Ronald Reagan signed the Mulford Act in 1967, banning the carrying of guns. The National Rifle Association was silent. This law was aimed to smash the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, as it was called at the time. Black Panthers would carry a law book in one hand and an unloaded shotgun in the other while observing police.
Claiming that they were armed and dangerous was the excuse for police to kill Black Panther Party members. Among the victims were Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, who were murdered in their beds in Chicago on Dec. 4, 1969.
Nearly 50 years later, poor people aren’t supposed to have First Amendment free speech rights, either. State legislators in Arizona and Texas last year introduced bills to bar video recording of police. (Arizona Republic, Jan. 12, 2016)
What’s needed? Millions in the streets
Minnesota is considered a liberal state. But between 2000 and June 2016 — that is, before Philando Castile’s death — 147 people were killed by Minnesota police. (Star Tribune, June 7, 2016)
The biggest mass hanging in U.S. history occurred in Mankato, Minn., on Dec. 26, 1862, when 38 Indigenous Santee men were executed. (unitednativeamerica.com)
After attacking Somali immigrants living in Minnesota, Donald Trump came within 44,000 votes of winning the Gopher State.
Racism is rejected by many workers in Minnesota who are appalled by the killer of Philando Castile going free. “Philando was a good man who is missed by the people who loved him and by hundreds of children and educators in the St. Paul Public Schools,” said President Denise Specht of Education Minnesota, a labor group affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
“More than 100,000 Minnesota children who look like Philando will wake up tomorrow in a society that still treats them far differently than white children,” said Specht. Teamsters Local 320 proudly declared its member Philando Castile to be a union brother.
But where is the statement by Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr.? And why is AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka silent? Stopping racist police killings is a labor issue.
A movement of millions is needed to stop the racist police. Every protest is a step toward building it.