Black Lives Matter protests erupt over new police killings

“Protesters in Chicago, New York and St Paul, Minnesota, took to the streets on July 7 to express outrage after the second fatal police shooting of a Black man in the United States in two days,” Reuters said that day .

Reuters said the protests were peaceful but tension was evident after the shooting of Philando Castile, 32, by police near St Paul on July 6. His girlfriend posted live video on the internet of the bloody scene minutes afterward, which was widely viewed.

Castile's death occurred within a day of the shooting of 37-year-old Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Sterling was killed during an altercation with two white police officers. Graphic video of that incident caused an outcry on social media.

In Chicago, protesters shut down a stretch of the Dan Ryan Expressway — one of Chicago's main arteries.

In New York, several hundred protesters blocked traffic in Times Square in the heart of Manhattan, chanting “Hands up, don't shoot”. Police eventually cleared the intersection of 7th Avenue and 42nd Street to let traffic proceed.

In St Paul, about 1000 people gathered outside the governor's mansion, chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, those killer cops have got to go”.

Reuters said that Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton made a brief appearance in an attempt to quell the crowd. Earlier in the day, he said a state investigation was already under way.

“Would this have happened if the driver and the passengers were white? I don't think it would have,” Dayton told reporters. “So I'm forced to confront that this kind of racism exists, and it's incumbent upon all of us to vow and ensure that it doesn't happen and doesn't continue to happen.”

Dayton called for the US Department of Justice to open its own investigation, but the department said on July 6 it would assist the state investigation as necessary. The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the Baton Rouge shooting.

Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, videotaped the minutes immediately following his shooting and posted it on Facebook Live. Castile, who was driving, was shot with Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter in the car. The video showed blood oozing through Castile's shirt as he appeared to lose consciousness.

The use of force by police against African-Americans in cities from Ferguson, Missouri, to Baltimore and New York has sparked periodic and sometimes violent protests in the past two years and has spawned a movement called Black Lives Matter. Anger has intensified when the officers involved in such incidents have been acquitted in trial or not charged at all.

Reynolds' video showed a police officer outside the car pointing a gun. Reynolds described what was going on, sometimes speaking calmly to the police officer, sometimes with her voice rising as she feared Castile was dying.

Reynolds said Castile was shot after police pulled their car over, citing a broken tail light. “Nothing within his body language said 'Kill me, I want to be dead,'” she said on July 7.

Reuters reported that Reynolds said police had not even tried to check if Castile was alive after they shot him, and it had taken at least 15 minutes for paramedics to arrive.

“Not one shot, not two shots, not three shots, but five shots,” she said told a press conference. “They did not check for a pulse at the scene of the crime.”

In the video Reynolds posted to Facebook after the shooting, she said Castile had been pulled over and explained he had a gun he was licensed to carry.

“He was trying to get out his ID and his wallet out of his pocket,” Reynolds said. “He let the officer know that he had a firearm and that he was reaching for his wallet, and the officer just shot him in his arm.”

Reuters said: “The shooting was the second high-profile killing of a black man by police in Minnesota in seven months. Two Minneapolis police officers in November shot and killed 24-year-old Jamar Clark in a struggle that broke out when they were called to assist an ambulance crew that was helping Clark's girlfriend.”

The Washington Post said Castile was at least the 506th person and 123rd black American shot and killed by police so far this year, according to a database it has set up to track such deaths. About 10% of those black Americans were unarmed, while about 61% had guns, the paper said.

Meanwhile, TeleSUR English said on July 7: “At least five Texas police officers were shot dead and more are wounded after two snipers apparently shot them as hundreds of demonstrators marched in downtown Dallas Thursday to protest recent incidents of police brutality including the killing of Philando Castile.”

Police said that day they had arrested three people over the shootings.

Responding to the shootings of police in a July 8 statement, the Black Lives Matter Network said: "The Black Lives Matter Network advocates for dignity, justice, and respect.

"In the last few days, this country witnessed the recorded murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile at the hands of police, the latest victims in this country's failed policing system. As we have done for decades, we marched and protested to highlight the urgent need to transform policing in America, to call for justice, transparency and accountability, and to demand that Black Lives Matter.

"In Dallas, many gathered to do the same, joining in a day of action with friends, family, and co-workers. Their efforts were cut short when a lone gunman targeted and attacked 11 police officers, killing five. This is a tragedy — both for those who have been impacted by yesterday's attack and for our democracy.

"There are some who would use these events to stifle a movement for change and quicken the demise of a vibrant discourse on the human rights of Black Americans. We should reject all of this.

"Black activists have raised the call for an end to violence, not an escalation of it. Yesterday's attack was the result of the actions of a lone gunman. To assign the actions of one person to an entire movement is dangerous and irresponsible. We continue our efforts to bring about a better world for all of us."

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