Over Memorial Day weekend in Chicago 56 people were shot, 12 of them fatally.? These numbers leaped from a story about the controversy surrounding ?Chiraq,? the title of Spike Lee?s new film.? Many residents are upset by the title that blends Chicago with Iraq, thereby suggesting the city and the country share a similar level violent deaths.? Supporters of the film believe that rather than outrage over the film, residents should be outraged over the reality of the fatalities in the city.
Another set of numbers that grabs your attention is from a recent study by the Washington Post that reports the police, nationwide, have killed 385 people during the first five months of this year, more than two a day, the Post said.
?About half the victims were white, half minority,? the report stated. ?But the demographics shifted sharply among the unarmed victims, two-thirds of whom were black or Hispanic. Overall, blacks were killed at three times the rate of whites or other minorities when adjusting by the population of the census tracts where the shootings occurred.?
The situation in Chicago and the report from the Post probably did not escape the Rev. Al Sharpton during his speech/sermon last Friday at the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland.? Introduced as one of ?God?s trombones,? Sharpton warmed to his topic in a hurry, stitching his narrative to the upcoming 2016 election before dealing with the pressing issue of police misconduct and the mounting number of Black unarmed men killed by the police.?
Sharpton said he had come at the request of several recent victims of police shootings, including family members of Tamir Rice, the 12-year old who was shot and killed by the police, an incident still under investigation; Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, two other victims of police violence whose names are invoked at the marches and rallies.
In fulfilling that request, Sharpton said, ?If it takes all the breath in my body, they will never stand alone, and we will not be quiet.?? According to the Guardian newspaper of London, Sharpton said he had not come to Cleveland for a ?Black on Black fight,? but there were ?bigger fish to fry.?
His appearance in Cleveland was timely from a national standpoint since CBS?s ?60 Minutes,? featured a segment of the show on Cleveland with a special report on the death of Tanisha Anderson who was killed by the police ten days before Rice was shot and killed.
Anderson, according to what her brother Joell told the press, had a mental breakdown on the evening of November 12, and the family called 911.? But instead of an ambulance, the police showed up.? Upon being escorted to a patrol car, Anderson became disoriented and when she demonstrated some reluctance she was taken down in a ?judo? hold.? Her head hit the concrete pavement and another officer placed his knee on her back.? She was then forcibly thrown in the backseat of the police car with the officers still holding her down, practically smothering her, her brother said. Anderson never opened her eyes again or spoke another word.
If Sharpton addressed this issue, it wasn?t reported, though he did briefly mention Officer Michael Brelo, who fired 49 of 137 police shots at Williams and Russell at the end of a car chase.? Brelo, who leaped to the top of the car?s hood and unleashed his fatal shots, was acquitted on two count of voluntary manslaughter.??
The Post?s report notes that the police are authorized to use deadly force only when they fear for their lives or the lives of others. ?So far,? it was reported, ?just three of the 385 fatal shootings have resulted in an officer being charged with a crime ? less than 1?percent. The low rate mirrors the findings of a Post investigation in April that found that of thousands of fatal police shootings over the past decade, only 54 had produced criminal charges. Typically, those cases involved layers of damning evidence challenging the officer?s account. Of the cases resolved, most officers were cleared or acquitted.?