by Jonathan Moniz, Staff Writer
Over the summer on July 6, a man by the name of Philando Castile was shot multiple times in Falcon Heights by police after being pulled over for a routine traffic stop.
His girlfriend and daughter were in the car with him, and his girlfriend recorded the event, streaming on Facebook Live. The video then went viral on the internet and garnered wide-spread attention.
Protests and demonstrations from the Black Lives Matter movement happened in response to Castile’s death, with many expressing outrage and concern over another case of police violence in an ongoing pattern.
One of their main problems is the systematic targeting of people of color being emphasized by the fact that Castile was subject to over eighty traffic stops, forty-seven of which he was found not-guilty.
Police responded with the fact that Philando Castile was carrying a gun and therefore posed an armed threat. They condemned the protests as a result of this. Many who viewed the incident noted that Philando Castile had informed the police of the weapon and notified them that he was legally licensed to carry the firearm.
Andrea Moore, President of the Black Student Union at UMass Dartmouth, said, “The shooting was not justified.” She went on to explain how he had informed the police of his firearm, and how he had followed all proper procedures and orders from police.
The frequency of the stops also prompted Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to talk about race as an underlying factor. He asked, “Would this have happened if those drivers were white? I don’t think it would have.” Moore also commented in agreement with this, noting how the death was largely racially motivated.
The protests continued to build momentum when a high profile football player, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand during the opening national anthem at one of the games.
When queried why, he had responded that it was due to the number and frequency of killings of people of color, also adding, “It would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”
This drew two reactions, one from President Obama, who commended Kaepernick on his stance and said that it was his right to do what he wished.
Obama expressed consideration for those who were in uniform for the flag and the symbol that it was, but he nevertheless was glad Kaepernick had stood up as it promoted conversation about race, and discussion.
Casey Bernier, a senior English major, responded by saying, “I didn’t agree with what he did, because it’s the national anthem, it’s our country, not just one group of people.”
Many lauded President Obama for standing behind Kaepernick and welcoming his stance on race. The 49ers player has also seen a huge surge in shirts, jerseys, hats, etc. with his logo and number branded onto them as a result of this.
Moore commented on how Kaepernick’s demonstration not only provided the opportunity for discourse, but also especially for campus, where discussion of race was often not happening.
The team managers behind Kaepernick’s team have stood by his decision, and will not be taking any action against the player for his right to free speech. Yet, he has been the subject of derision and hostility from many players and fans who have not taken his expression kindly.
The most extreme reaction was courted by the Santa Clara police union, who in response to Kaepernick’s discussion threatened to cease working at all 49ers games for protection services in response.
This was not the first time Kaepernick had been known to sit out on the anthem. However, during several previous games he had taken to sitting instead of standing, and had even knelt at one other 49ers game.
Demonstrating at this particular moment in time this close to the death of Philando Castile drew the attention of many, as Moore noted, remarking, “He used his platform as an athlete to take a stand use it to reach a lot of people and a lot of young people who watch football for a peaceful demonstration.”
The reaction of the Santa Clara police union was received negatively by both Moore and Bernier, with Moore saying, “It reinforces the fact that black people are not protected under the law and by police, and it is punishing his freedom of expression just because he’s a person of color. If it was another person, he wouldn’t be punished for it.”
Many have responded consistently and negatively to Black Lives Matters protests, and simultaneously many others have called for investigations of the police community and culture. This incident is the latest in a series of ongoing incidents between police and minorities within America.