The shooting death of Alton Sterling at the hands of two Baton Rouge police officers — identified as Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II — has reignited racial tension nationwide. The 37-year-old, who was gunned down following a relatively vague encounter with the BRPD officers has caught the attention of news outlets and social media users everywhere.
On the evening of Wednesday, July 6, thousands of Baton Rouge citizens gathered for a vigil at the Triple S convenience store where Alton was killed. People from many different walks of life gathered to join hands and pray, sing hymns, and pay homage to the slain father of five, according to NOLA.com.
By nightfall, the streets of Baton Rouge were filled with people walking while others passed by honking their horns in solidarity. As a brass band marched through the streets of the Fairfield neighborhood, citizens chanted “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice For Alton.”
Before long, the somber vigil turned into an outcry for answers. Local citizens went from mourning the loss of Alton to demanding an explanation for his seemingly senseless death and jumping on vehicles that passed down the busy street. Although protesters gathered on July 5 just hours after Alton’s death, tonight’s turnout far surpassed the previous night.
It’s quite obvious the citizens in this community refuse to allow Alton to go unnoticed. So far, the vigil and protests have been peaceful, but will things remain this way? Many people are growing impatient when it comes to the video evidence that is currently being withheld. Since the shooting occurred, two videos have been released.
A man is shot by police in Minnesota as protests continue in Louisiana over the shooting of a black man https://t.co/8aAcvlYH54— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) July 7, 2016
However, both of the videos fail to show what occurred prior to the officers approaching Alton. Also, the Triple S convenience store owner Abdullah Muflahi revealed his surveillance footage had been taken without his consent. “I told them I would like to be in the store when [they took it],” Muflahi said. “They told me they didn’t want me to see the footage. I never received a warrant.”
What the officers didn’t know was the surveillance wasn’t the only footage Muflahi had of the shooting that left Alton dead. He and Arthur Reed, a Black Lives Matter activist, also filmed the horrific incident with their cell phones. Reed’s video was the first video social media users saw where a person was filming from inside a vehicle.
Abdullah Muflahi, owner of store where Alton Sterling killed in BR, describes seeing shooting by officer pic.twitter.com/08ABnQwr6a— Maya Lau (@mayalau) July 5, 2016
But, based on the officers’ actions when confiscating the surveillance footage, Muflahi had reservations about their intentions. So, he turned over his cell phone footage to his attorney simply because he does not trust the local law enforcement agency to carry out a fair investigation without being biased toward Alton.
With all of the questionable aspects surrounding Alton’s case, many people can’t help but wonder how the legal battle will play out. Will the officers be indicted, or will Alton be nothing more than another statistic? For many local citizens, just the thought of his death being overlooked seems infuriating. Over the past couple years, there have been a number a number of highly publicized, officer-involved shootings that have sparked nationwide debates, illuminating the true colors of racism.
Like Alton, Sean Bell, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, and Freddy Gray suffered a similar fate, but their local citizens refused to cower, and when things didn’t rule in their favor, there were riots. For those who don’t remember, the cities of Baltimore, MD and Ferguson, MO, faced heightened unrest, and protesters began rioting and looting stores.
So could Baton Rouge suffer the same seemingly unjust fate? At this point, no one knows. Hopefully, peaceful protests will continue in Baton Rouge as the investigation into Alton’s death continues. Alton has made quite an impact on so many people in just a short period of time. So, local citizens are hoping justice is served.
According to the Daily Mail, both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave. Do you think the death of Alton Sterling could lead to riots? Share your thoughts.
[Photo by Facebook/Alton Sterling]