“There are such a lot of circumstances I am studying about that I by no means even heard of”
Final April in Oklahoma, Edmond police shot and killed Isaiah Lewis, a 17-year-old Black teenager. Whereas Lewis’ household held a neighborhood discussion board to memorialize his life and focus on the problem of police brutality instantly after his demise, widespread public outrage over his case has surged solely in latest months. That outrage facilities on each the dearth of police transparency about what really occurred on the day of Lewis’ homicide, and Oklahoma County District Lawyer David Prater’s determination to not prosecute the officers concerned. Prater introduced final September that he might discover no possible trigger for charging them.
Oklahoma Metropolis native and aspiring civil rights legal professional Adriana Legal guidelines heard about Lewis’s case final 12 months, however within the wake of the uprisings and studying concerning the Freedom of Info Act, she has lately begun to request paperwork within the hopes of determining what occurred.
“I have been in touch with pals of his, and I simply began making an attempt to succeed in out and work out what the story was as a result of there’s so many discrepancies within the police reviews and the 911 calls, and simply issues that do not match up with the small print that had been informed by the witnesses,” mentioned Legal guidelines in an interview with Prism. “I took an curiosity in it a pair months in the past and I’ve simply been trying into it since then as to what occurred, what wanted to be completed, and what might be completed now.”
Legal guidelines is the president of The Collegiate Freedom and Justice Coalition (CFJC), a social justice group that organized a protest for Lewis on July 20. The occasion gathered neighborhood members on the Oklahoma County Courthouse and featured speeches by Lewis’ household.
Finally, the coalition hopes to see Prater reopen Lewis’ case. In the meantime, Legal guidelines is making an attempt to determine how one can get an impartial prosecutor on the case and file a petition to maneuver the case to a grand jury.
“Everybody’s like, ‘That is the George Floyd motion, these are George Floyd protests,’ however not particularly,” mentioned Legal guidelines. “He was the catalyst, [but] all of us can perceive, everyone knows that there have been many individuals slain by police earlier than him and a number of them weren’t even talked about, like those right here in Oklahoma. There are such a lot of circumstances I am studying about that I by no means even heard of.”
Recapturing public consideration
The power round Floyd’s demise has additionally catalyzed organizers in different cities to tackle different circumstances of police violence that had been swept underneath the rug, leaving the reality unexamined and households with none semblance of closure.
In Wilmington, Delaware, protests sprang up earlier this month calling for the Division of Justice (DOJ) to reopen the case of Jeremy McDole, a 28-year-old Black man whom police shot whereas he was in his wheelchair in 2015. In response to protesters, the DOJ says the officers had been protected on the time underneath a Delaware regulation that permitted police to make use of lethal drive when believing it needed, “even when the assumption was cheap or unreasonable.”
The push for elevated accountability in outdated circumstances can also be taking root in counties which have elected purportedly progressive prosecutors. Since June, a bunch of neighborhood organizers in Bexar County, Texas, has been calling for Bexar County District Lawyer Joe Gonzales to reexamine the circumstances of three Black males: Marquise Jones, Antronie Scott, and Charles Roundtree who had been killed in 2014, 2016, and 2018 respectively by San Antonio police. In all three circumstances, the police weren’t charged. Even now, with the surge of unrest and curiosity in reexamining the circumstances, Gonzales has introduced he has no plans to reopen them except new proof is introduced forth.
Equally in Massachusetts, Suffolk County District Lawyer Rachael Rollins has discovered herself the goal of Boston-based protests calling for the reopening of the circumstances of Usaamah Rahim and Terrence Coleman.
Boston regulation enforcement shot and killed Rahim in 2015 after inserting him underneath surveillance for alleged terrorist exercise—a portrait of him that his household and family members dispute. In 2016, Boston police shot Coleman twice after his mom known as paramedics for him as she says he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. At a rally held final month, Coleman’s mom mentioned tearfully, “I mentioned, ‘I didn’t name for you. I known as for the ambulance.’”
In some circumstances, the return to previous circumstances has ignited broader public curiosity and allowed tales that might have been forgotten to ascend past native communities and onto the nationwide stage. That is significantly true within the case of Elijah McClain, the 23-year-old who was stopped final August by police in Aurora, Colorado. McClain was positioned in a carotid maintain, injected with ketamine, and suffered a coronary heart assault, in the end dying inside days. Whereas McClain died virtually a 12 months in the past, his story has solely now acquired renewed consideration following a profitable petition launched on Change.org that garnered over 4.6 million signatures and impressed folks nationwide to put calls to the Aurora district legal professional and file complaints towards the county police division.
“We’ve each proper to be offended”
In some ways, these circumstances have returned to the general public’s consideration as a result of the longstanding cries of household and pals are lastly reaching a populace that’s extra receptive to tales about police violence, however they’re additionally being uplifted by on a regular basis folks curiously digging into the previous. One device that has been significantly helpful for organizers like Legal guidelines has been Mapping Police Violence, a web based database gathering info on identified police killings which have occurred since 2013. The location permits customers to research the geographies of the place these killings have taken place and what number of had been dedicated every year.
Based on the database, Oklahoma ranks third within the record of states with the very best annual police killings fee, following behind New Mexico and Alaska. That discovering is part of why Legal guidelines feels that protests towards police violence in her residence state have grow to be so sturdy and sustained. The database has additionally produced a jump-off level for her personal analysis into previous circumstances of police brutality.
“I really feel like we’ve got each proper to be offended, and people older circumstances that may not have gotten the sunshine shined on them that they deserved then? They have to be introduced up now,” mentioned Legal guidelines. “Justice must be pursued. There is a statute of limitation on crime for a cause. If we’re not previous that then why not return and prosecute the officers or whoever was concerned?”
That means of returning to, uncovering, and uplifting previous circumstances are solely part of the work Legal guidelines does with the CFJC. The group, which launched on the finish of Could, has been internet hosting rallies that includes native political candidates and state senators, operating teach-ins and know-your-rights workshops, and connecting lately arrested protesters with attorneys who can signify them. CFJC additionally makes use of analysis on previous circumstances to determine points inside the Oklahoma Metropolis justice system and craft coverage proposals and new marketing campaign calls for that might tackle them, like calling for the demilitarization of the police and ushering in new provisions round the usage of physique cameras.
In partnership with different Oklahoma-based teams, CFJC is demanding that Prater drop the fees towards protesters, a few of whom have been charged with acts of terrorism that may carry bail quantities of $1 million; finish money bail; remove certified immunity; reopen Lewis’ case; and in the end resign from workplace. For Lewis’ case specifically, the group is planning to work with human rights advocates and authorized professionals to coordinate subsequent steps and petition for a grand jury. Legal guidelines says this “behind-the-scenes work” can be completed in coordination with public occasions aimed toward retaining Lewis’ title on the market, and hopefully not forgotten.
Tamar Sarai Davis is Prism’s prison justice workers reporter. Comply with her on Twitter @TheRealTamar.
Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit information outlet that facilities the folks, locations and points at the moment underreported by our nationwide media. By way of our unique reporting, evaluation, and commentary, we problem dominant, poisonous narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to construct a full and correct report of what’s taking place in our democracy. Comply with us on Twitter, Fb, and Instagram.