Sharpton praises response to fatal SC police shooting

Sharpton praises response to fatal SC police shooting
April 16
00:00 2015
(Above: AP Photo/David Goldman- Angela Caraway, of Raleigh, N.C., looks up during a moment of prayer during a vigil at the scene where Walter Scott was fatally shot by a white police officer after he fled a traffic stop, Sunday, April 12, in North Charleston, S.C. The officer, Michael Thomas Slager, has been fired and charged with murder.)

By PHILLIP LUCAS, Associated Press

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.  — Demonstrators in the North Charleston area say they will press local officials for broader civilian oversight of the city’s police force after the shooting death of Walter Scott.

The Rev. Al Sharpton called for unity Sunday, April 12, at a vigil on the grassy vacant lot where Scott, 50, was killed. Other speakers invited people to the state Capitol this week for discussions on proposed legislation on body cameras for officers in the state.

Black Lives Matter leaders said in an open letter that they want people to begin recording police officers as part of a project titled #WeAreWatchingYou.

During a sermon at a North Charleston church Sunday morning, Sharpton said swift action taken by a white mayor and police chief in the South could set the tone for handling future questions of police misconduct across the country.

“It’s not about black and white. It’s about right and wrong,” Sharpton said. “What this mayor did is what we’ve been asking mayors to do all over the country: Not do us a favor, just enforce the law.’”

The tone of the local community’s response has been different than other instances of unarmed black men being fatally shot by white police officers, including the violent demonstrations from people in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown’s death.

Sharpton preached at the Charity Missionary Baptist Church and commended Mayor Keith Summey and Police Chief Eddie Driggers — both of whom were in the congregation and at the vigil.

The shooting was captured on video that was taken by a witness. Scott was shot after fleeing a traffic stop by then-officer Michael Slager. The officer initially said Scott was shot after a tussle over his Taser, but the witness video that later surfaced showed Scott being shot at eight times as he ran away. Slager was fired and has been charged with murder.

Scott’s death was criticized as yet another fatal shooting involving an unarmed black man by a white officer under questionable circumstances.

Some North Charleston community members said they suspect abuse of power and the abuse of public trust played more of a role than race in the shooting.

“It’s not about the color of your skin, it’s about social justice. When we all practice social justice, we’re all free,” said Mattese Lecque, a North Charleston resident who heard Sharpton preach. “Sometimes it takes disaster to bring about change, and that’s what’s happening now.”

The chants, hymns and calls for more police accountability during small rallies in North Charleston have echoed those in Ferguson, Missouri.

However, many in the North Charleston area have said they don’t want to see the burned-out buildings, broken windows and social tension that characterized Ferguson after Brown’s shooting — and the announcement that a grand jury wouldn’t indict the officer who shot him.

Residents say they’re more focused on pursuing justice for Scott’s family, not violent demonstrations.

“We’re not gonna tear it up, we’re not gonna have that,” said Dwayne German, 56, of Charleston. “If you want to vent anger, take it out when it’s time to vote.”

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