Sunday, July 15, 2018

'Who do you serve? Who do you protect?': The Killing of Snoop the Barber

Officers assigned to a foot assignment observe "a man exhibiting characteristics of an armed person".  -- Anthony Guglielmi, the Chicago Police Department’s chief communications officer
It's hard to say what it is that will finally push a community to the breaking point. I lived in L.A. in 1965 when the Watts riots (rebellion) began as a reaction to a police assault on a black motorist pulled over for a traffic violation. LAPD needed help from 4,000 members of the National Guard to quell the uprising. By the time the smoke cleared they counted 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage.

In '68 it was the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis.

1992 brought the Rodney King riots.

But all these singular events were only sparks that lit the prairie fire of anger and rage. The real tinder box was years of oppression and suffering within a system of enforced racist violence, segregation, joblessness, broken schools and mass incarceration -- a political system leaving those oppressed communities voiceless and without hope for the next generation.

I was considering all this when I heard the news about yesterday's deadly shooting by police of Harith Augustus ("Snoop the Barber") on Chicago's south side. Harith was the father of a 5-year-old daughter and was a well-known barber in his South Shore neighborhood. One of his customers told local media the barber usually “brings his daughter with him wherever he goes, but she wasn’t with him today.”

Police said they encountered a man “exhibiting characteristics” of being armed. Wait, what?

There was a confrontation and Augustus was shot in the back five times and killed. An angry crowd gathered shouting,  "Who do you serve? Who do you protect?", and a confrontation ensued, a few water bottles against cop batons. Witnesses said the cop who did the shooting was quickly whisked away from the area in a police cruiser. As of this writing, she has not been named.

Shortly after, the streets erupted in the neighborhood with residents turned demonstrators demanding answers from police. Police claimed a weapon was recovered at the scene. People who knew him said, Harith had a permit for the gun, that it was holstered and that he never reached for it. So much for all that Second Amendment bull crap.

By midnight, demonstrators were still in the streets, police and residents clashed and a number of people were arrested. Sun-Times reporter, Nader Issa was caught up in the chaos and was assaulted by police.

I don't know if Harith's killing will turn out to be one of those moments in time. If nothing else, this is one more brick in the wall for a mayor running for reelection and still being dogged by his role in the cover up of the Laquan McDonald killing. His only saving grace is that none of the other candidates seem to have a meaningful response to the ongoing and systematic police abuse in this city's black communities beyond calling for a new $95M police training academy.

But at the risk of being repetitive, the pumping of five bullets into the back of a man accused of no crime except running for his life, is not a training problem.

Here's some of Issa's tweets from the scene.
 The situation has gotten as bad as its been a night. Police charged into the parking lot and started hitting people. Two officers smacked my phone out of my hand and shoved me to the ground. Don't know how many arrests, but at least a dozen from what I could see.

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