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Despite Blacks Killed By Cops Here, Ferguson Reaction Unlikely
11/26/2014 3:44:06 PM

(l-r) Rev. Elder James Johnson and Rev. Nelson Rivers III of National Action Network lead a rally with protesters Tuesday in front of Ernest F. Hollings Judicial Center in Charleston after a grand jury’s decison not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. Photo: Tolbert Smalls, Jr.
By Barney Blakeney

The grand jury’s failure to indict Ferguson, Mo. policeman Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown likely won’t spark the violent reaction taking place in other communities. Still local civil rights advocates and others are condemning the decision as another example of the inconsequential acts of police who kill Black males.

The local National Action Network chapter planned to go on with its rally in rain-soaked downtown Charleston hours after Missouri prosecutor Bob MCulloch announced the grand jury would not indict Wilson in the controversial police shooting. NAN Chapter President Elder James Johnson said the noon rally would be held rain or shine in support of Brown’s family and to send the massage the incident and the reactions it’s sparked around the country could happen here. Johnson said the June 20 controversial shooting death of 19-year-old Denzell Curnell could have sparked the same violence seen in other communities, but didn’t. Curnell’s death was ruled a suicide.

Police said Curnell shot himself after a confrontation with an off duty Charleston policeman performing private security. Authorities refused to provide details of the shooting while witnesses alleged the officer shot Curnell. Police maintained the officer’s innocence though unwilling to shed any information that might offer any understanding. Charleston NAACP and others challenged the police version of the incident and launched protests.

While Curnell’s death left room for doubt, other police shooting incidents offered more opportunity for confrontation. In October 2013 51-year-old Derryl Drayton was killed by Charleston County Sheriff Department deputies responding to a domestic disturbance call. Deputies found Drayton with a large kitchen knife in his possession which he placed against his throat. The deputies tried to talk to Drayton and used a taser to take him into custody. He apparently threw the knife striking one officer in the leg which caused a small wound. Two of the deputies then fired several shots striking Drayton multiple times killing him.

In 2003 North Charleston police shot and killed Asberry Wylder who allegedly stole a package of lunch meat from a neighborhood grocer. Police backed Wylder across six lanes of highway on busy Rivers Avenue before shooting him after he used a knife to stab one of the officers.

And in October 2000 Edward Snowden, a Black North Charleston resident was killed by two North Charleston police officers while returning video tapes to the store. Snowden retreated into the video store after firing a shot from his pistol to warn a group of three white men who had attacked him. Police were called when the men pursued Snowden into the store, but when they arrived they shot and killed Snowden rather than apprehending his attackers.

Charleston NAACP President Dot Scott said the Missouri grand jury’s failure to indict Wilson was expected. The prosecutor worked to insure the case would not move beyond his purview, she said calling Brown’s death another tragic incident of the killing of an African American male.

Charleston attorney Arthur McFarland agreed the prosecutor in the cases appeared to “have changed the rules in the middle of the game.” In other cases prosecutors seek indictments, in the Wilson case however, McCulloch instead presented testimony that encouraged the grand jury to disbelieve witnesses to produce a manipulated outcome.

McFarland noted that of 430 cases nationally where questionable police shootings were involved in the deaths of Blacks, only 30 resulted in indictment and of those 30 indictments only 15 trials resulted in convictions.

Local civil rights icon William ‘Bill’ Saunders said an 18th century federal judge’s comments in the Dred Scott Supreme Court case over slavery that a Black man has no rights a white man is bound to respect still applies.

“We have to take some type of position against the killing of Black men,” Saunders said. It’s happening all the time without any legal repercussion.”

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