In the wake of the rioting and devastation in Baltimore, Maryland, officials were likely a little worried at the protest planning today in the 2013 death of Wayne Jones, who was shot 23 times by five police officers in Martinsburg, West Virginia, which is located approximately 75 miles from Baltimore. Police have said Jones, who was black, drew a knife after officers stopped him as he was walking on a street on March 13, 2013. One officer was stabbed during a scuffle. Court documents reported it to be a minor injury that did not require hospitalization.
Officers said that Jones did not respond to repeated commands to drop his weapon, and after he stabbed one of the police officers, five officers opened fire on Jones. At least half of the bullets struck him in the back or in the buttocks after he was on the ground, according to autopsy reports.
A grand jury in Martinsburg failed to indict the five officers involved in the shooting, citing that they could find no evidence of wrongdoing and that they had acted appropriately. Jones’ family, as well as many members of the community, continue to question the shooting and the necessity of being shot so many times. His family has appealed the grand jury’s decision. A year later, a federal judge dismissed a $200 million lawsuit filed by Jones’ family against the officers and the city, and the family is also appealing that decision. Jones was from Stephens City, Virginia, and why he was in Martinsburg at the time of his death is unknown.
Today, a peaceful demonstration took place in Martinsburg, West Virginia, with dozens of people, black and white, holding signs and peacefully protesting. The signs said things such as “All lives matter,” and the protesters called for an explanation in the death of Jones, according to the Martinsburg Journal. At one point, protesters held hands with clergy and police officers and prayed for peace for race relations. Organizers said they just wanted “accountability.”
The march ended at the Anthony’s Pizza restaurant on the corner of Queen Street and Race Street after the group prayer, without incident. Martinsburg police officers were seen holding hands, praying with protestors, and thanking protesters for their demonstration and the peaceful event.
The peaceful demonstration in Martinsburg, West Virginia, deserves respect and recognition — a sign that protest is possible without the loss of lives, businesses and increased violence. While Jones and the Freddie Gray case differ in some respects, in many respects they are the same — yet the protesters’ reactions made all the difference between a call for action and a violent crime.
[Image by Metro]