Nation Mourns and Organizes Against Police Violence as Obama Addresses Dallas

image attribution: Fibonacci Blue

We’re trying a new approach with our news coverage starting this week! Instead of posting two link roundups per week, as we’ve been doing, we will instead post at least two stand-alone stories throughout the week, with one longer link roundup at the end of each week. Thank you for reading!


This week, as the nation continued grieving the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling at the hands of police — and continued to learn about new ones, like Alva Braziel — protests were carried out across the country. Marchers blocked traffic in Chicago and marched to the governor’s mansion in Atlanta. In Oakland, protesters shut down both sides of I-880. Over the weekend, over 200 were arrested after protests in Baton Rouge, including activist and former candidate for mayor of Baltimore DeRay Mckesson, who was charged with “simple obstruction of a highway.” Other protestors, like Brittany Packnett, say that Periscope recordings of the protest prove that DeRay was on the side of the roadway line that officers had told them to stay on, and was arrested without cause:

“Deray was arrested last night while we protested for Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. police directions were to stay on the shoulder as we walked back toward BRPD along Airline Highway. An officer approached him saying, “you with the loud shoes-if you step back into the street you’ll be arrested.” Deray remained with other protestors in our group on the shoulder, not crossing the line into the street-a fact proven by several periscope videos, including his. Just a few moments later, multiple police crossed onto the shoulder, tackling Deray and arresting him.

DeRay Mckesson being arrested by police in Louisiana as onlookers film with phones

photo credit AP

Mckesson was released on Sunday, and gave a statement saying that he believed his arrest was unlawful.

In Dallas, the city is still reeling from the sniper attack that followed a peaceful protest last week and took the lives of five Dallas police officers. President Obama has visited the city and today gave remarks at an interfaith memorial service for the officers. He was also joined by George W. Bush, who moved to Dallas after the end of his term.

In the midst of the painful and frustrating national conversation on policing, racial justice and why so many lives are being taken in the course of routine police interactions, many are also focusing on the Dallas police department’s tactic for taking in Dallas sniper Micah Xavier Johnson: a mobile robot armed with C4, which detonated a wall behind Johnson and killed him. CNN has more details on the robot, which they say was purchased by the department in 2008 for $151,000. It doesn’t seem to be totally clear whether this particular robot came through the 1033 program, which allows local police department to purchase surplus military equipment, but according to NPR, “The Pentagon’s 1033 program, which supplies military weapons and vehicles to law enforcement agencies across the country, distributed 479 [explosive ordnance disposal] robots between 2006 and 2014.”

Although it isn’t new for law enforcement to use robotics, with past examples ranging from defusing bombs to delivering pizza to a suicide risk to coax him down, this is believed to be the first time US law enforcement has used it to kill a person. (This isn’t a new military use, however; “U.S. soldiers in Iraq have used similar robots to deliver explosives, arming them by duct-taping bombs to the device.”) According to CNN, robots can be fitted with different mounts to use items like:

  • A modified 12 gauge shotgun, which can also be used as a breaching tool
  • A gas can dispenser mount
  • A window breaker
  • A cable cutter
  • Drills and saws
  • Real time x-ray machines
  • Mounts to combine with L6, L8 37mm or 40mm launcher weapons

One concern about the use of robots by law enforcement is what policies will govern their use (and if they’ll be enforced). Law professor Elizabeth Joh told NPR that “the effort to develop clear policies may result in a patchwork of local regulations similar to those for drones and body cameras.” It’s not clear how many robots like this are owned by police departments around the country; although those that come through the 1033 program are easier to count, there aren’t necessarily numbers on those bought from private companies like Northrop Grumman. The robot used in Dallas is reported to have “sustained minor damage to the extension arm and is still functional.”

These issues will remain on the minds of communities across the US as we head into the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, beginning on July 25 and July 18 respectively; it’s virtually certain that protests and direct action will continue in Philadelphia and Cleveland as activists work to bring greater attention and accountability around those being continuously lost to police violence.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1095 articles for us.

5 Comments

  1. Thanks for this. (And the experiment with the format change seems timely- I am always so grateful for the link roundups, but/and it will also be nice to have fuller discussion. There’s just so much going on.)

  2. As @hihello said, I think this format will allow us to have fuller discussions. I would like to share a couple of aditional links:

    Philando Castile’s Driving Record Raises Questions About Racial Profiling
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/philando-castile-racial-profiling_us_5783e257e4b01edea78ef139?utm_hp_ref=racial-profiling

    Housing, Race, And Police Stops: The Backstory To Philando Castile’s Killing
    http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2016/07/12/3797355/philando-castile-segregation/

    As always, Ta-Nehisi Coates was totally on point:

    “In the black community, it’s the force they deploy, and not any higher American ideal, that gives police their power. This is obviously dangerous for those who are policed. Less appreciated is the danger illegitimacy ultimately poses to those who must do the policing. For if the law represents nothing but the greatest force, then it really is indistinguishable from any other street gang. And if the law is nothing but a gang, then it is certain that someone will resort to the kind of justice typically meted out to all other powers in the street.”

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/the-near-certainty-of-anti-police-violence/490541/

  3. To support the Baton Rouge Bail Fund go here: https://www.crowdrise.com/baton-rouge-bail-fund

    I wasn’t there on Friday or Saturday nights, but Sunday started with a youth organized and led march and rally. There has been some dissension between older folks and youth in terms of leadership and strategy over the past week. The youth (“The Wave”) presented a five point plan and held the space at the Capitol, where the march arrived.

    Afterwards folks went to the old police station at France and East. Despite the police stating people were trying to block the interstate there is no absolutely no substantiation. Folks went to the old police station because it is within walking distance of Capitol, unlike the main police station at Airline (where people were arrested Friday and Saturday night).

    People were on the street, then we were pushed on the sidewalk, then told we couldn’t stand on the sidewalk. Other groups of people were threatened with arrest if they stayed in the street and a person living in a house across the street from where the cops were lined up welcomed protesters into her yard so they could get out of the street. That yard was eventually charged by the cops (in riot gear) – folks were shoved into the street and then arrested or just arrested straight out of the yard. They tried to kettle protesters, bringing lines of cops in riot gear down from every direction along with an LRAD and armored vehicles. 7-8 people I know were arrested, charged with “resisting arrest” or “obstructing a highway.” In East Baton Rouge Parish Prison folks were held 15-20 to a cell and were pepper sprayed for singing protest songs. They are using state statutes instead of city ordinances so that everyone arrested has to have a hearing rather than just setting bond. Reporters and legal observers have also been arrested. Although the cops claim people threw cement on Sunday there is no corroboration from protesters or from legal observers, who stated they did not see anything thrown.

    A 17 year old girl and her mom were arrested when her mom tried to get a photo. They were separated from their brother/son and each other in different cells. The cops threatened her mom with charges of child abandonment. The cops accused her of being a rioter and someone who “incited” other people in the crowd. They were released at different times even though she is a minor and is from Florida, so she didn’t have friends there (luckily jail support has been awesome).

  4. Thank you for this. My anxiety is up. It’s just been a tense couple of weeks in America but tbh I believe I’m still mourning what happened in Orlando. I don’t feel safe as a bisexual,disabled black woman right now. I’m also constantly worried about the black men in my family right now

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