Civil rights groups say the community’s response to Wednesday’s fatal shooting of Brandon Webber at the hands of U.S. Marshals officers goes beyond the events of this week and is the result of years of injustice.
Just City said in a Thursday statement via Twitter that the neighborhood's response is based on “decades of sustained over-policing and entrenched policies that criminalize poverty.”
“The loss of another young life was but a spark on the smoldering ashes that exist in so many neighborhoods in our community,” reads the statement from Just City. “Every single day in Memphis, young and old alike encounter oppressive systems, which are nearly impossible to avoid or escape.”
Just City said the courts demand more time and attention from the poor than the wealthy, so “even simple traffic tickets can cause a crisis.”
“Hefty” court costs and fees, which if not paid result in driver’s license suspensions, is one way that Just City said those living in poverty are unfairly treated by the system.
“Law enforcement and courts demand accountability for the slightest misstep,” Just City said. “Yet when a life is taken in a hail of gunfire, we wait for days, weeks, or years for a simple description of what occurred, and officers are rarely, if ever, held accountable.”
Is it any wonder that a community rejects an occupying force like the one that descended into Frayser? While the MPD has a difficult & thankless job, for many, many people, they embody the oppression that operates with lethal efficiency all across Memphis every, single day. 7/7— Just City (@JustCity901) June 13, 2019
“While we in no way condone violence against police officers, the boiling point reached by some individuals in the crowd last night is the consequence of decades of injustice, discrimination, and violence against black people in Memphis and beyond,” Weinberg said. “Of course people in Frayser are upset and angry. We should all be angry.”
Weinberg continues saying that to ignore the pain of protesters and instead to respond with “a militarized show of police force, only illustrates and reinforces the problem.”
“To adapt the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., unrest is the language of the unheard,” Weinberg said. “To stem the erosion of trust between the community and law enforcement, it is incumbent on Memphis leaders to start listening. This means acknowledging the community’s legitimate pain and anger.”
Weinberg also questioned if there were any attempts made by the officers to de-escalate the situation before shooting Webber: “Was shooting Mr. Webber over a dozen times, if reports are accurate, really necessary?”
There should be a “swift, thorough, and transparent” investigation into the shooting and a “prompt” release of any footage or evidence related to the incident, Weinberg said.
The Memphis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also wants answers surrounding Webber’s death.
In a Thursday statement, Deidre Malone, president of the Memphis branch, said the group is “very interested” in determining whether or not the U.S. Marshal officers that shot Webber were wearing body cameras and if there “was a better way to engage Mr. Webber once he was located.”
“Unfortunately for our citizens, Memphis is again in the spotlight over a shooting of an African American,” Malone said. “The NAACP Memphis Branch will continue to ask these questions until we obtain a response.”