United States: What two cities tell us about policing, mass shootings and institutional racism

July 11, 2022
Justice for Jayland Walker
Jayland Walker (left) and Robert E Crimo III

Two shootings in the United States tell us a lot about policing and institutionalised racism.

In the first incident, police shot and killed an unarmed Black man in Akron, a working-class city in Ohio. The second incident — the 309th mass shooting this year — took place at a July 4 Independence Day parade in Highland Park, Illinois, a predominantly white upper-income community north of Chicago.

What many people don’t know is how differently each shooting was reported in the media and responded to by politicians, and why, or how quickly the police cracked down on Black protesters in Akron, while treating the Highland Park community with respect.

Akron cops vicious killing

Jayland Walker, a young Black man, was gunned down in a hail of bullets by eight police officers as he ran away from them. He had been pulled over because of a broken tail light on his car.

A medical examiner's report found Walker suffered at least 60 gunshot wounds.

After shooting him down, the cops handcuffed him, before checking whether he was still alive.

The cops claimed Walker shot at them while in his car. But he had no weapon as he ran.

“The decision to deploy lethal force as well as the number of shots fired is consistent with use of force protocols and officers' training,” said the Fraternal Order of Police Akron Lodge 7 in a statement.

The so-called police “union” always makes these claims in every shooting.

The cops were put on paid administrative leave.

Mass protests immediately began. Walker’s family demanded justice. Instead, protest leaders were arrested and charged.

This is an example of institutionalised racism. Black and Brown people are seen as less than qualified for fair treatment by the system. It is so embedded, which is why the police criminalise Black people for minor traffic violations.

Every Black person knows the double standards in policing and the legal system.

Highland Park mass shooting

The moment the Highland Park violence was reported in the media, I knew it was probably a white shooter.

The media is complicit in institutionalised racism. People of colour or Muslims are quickly assumed to be criminals. When the perpetrator is a white man — and it almost always is a man — the media reaction is slow. “His rights must be protected”.

Robert E Crimo III — the lone, white Independence Day shooter — climbed onto a roof with an AR-15 type weapon and shot into the parade.

He bought five rifles legally with the help of his father.

He killed seven people and wounded 40 others, then drove away in his car. He was apprehended several hours later.

When the police surrounded his vehicle, he still had another high-powered military-style rifle in his possession.

Did the police open fire with a hail of bullets against the suspected mass murderer?

No. They approached him peacefully. No shots were fired; there was no brutal take down. He was treated as a human being.

After confessing to the crime, a judge ordered Crimo be held without bail on murder charges.

Crimo was known to the police. He went by the stage name “Awake the Rapper” and posted content online that included violent imagery. On a now-deleted YouTube page, some of his videos featured his hometown, and others including animated scenes of gun violence. In one video that depicts gun violence, he can be heard saying, "I need to leave now. I need to just do it. It is my destiny."

He also supported Donald Trump, which the media have downplayed or dropped from reports.

Walker — in contrast — was a young Black man with no record of violent threats. His “crime” was his skin colour. He was seen as a threat.

What Black people — rich and poor — must deal with is outrageous. Bitter experience shows why it was no surprise that, while Walker feared for his life when stopped by police for a broken taillight, Crimo was simply arrested after committing mass murder.

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