Hundreds gathered for a vigil last night in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to honor father of five Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by police early Tuesday morning. Sterling was a 37-year-old African-American. The two officers involved are both white. Bystander video shows Sterling was pinned to the ground when he was fatally shot. The Justice Department has announced it will investigate the killing. Sterling’s death has sparked two days of protests in Baton Rouge, as well as protests last night in Ferguson, Missouri, and Philadelphia, where activists were arrested for blocking Interstate 676. For more we speak with Louisiana State Representative Ted James and artist and activist Donney Rose. Speaking about the Department of Justice investigation, Ted James said: “The federal government has responded in record time. I guess the sad part is, it has happened so many times that the federal government and states know what to do when police officers murder black man in their community.”
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NERMEEN SHAIKH: Vigils are continuing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to remember Alton Sterling who was fatally shot by police early Tuesday morning. Sterling was a 37-year-old African-American, father of five. The two officers involved are both white. Bystander video shows Sterling was pinned to the ground when he was fatally shot. Sterling is at least the 38th person killed by Louisiana police since 2015. The Justice Department has announced it will investigate the killing, which has sparked two days of protests. At least two bystanders filmed the shooting on their cell phones. New video posted online Wednesday was filmed by Abdullah Muflahi who owns the convenience store where Sterling was killed. A warning to our TV audience, the footage you are about to see is very graphic.
ALTON STERLING: Please, come on. Don’t [beep].
POLICE OFFICER: He’s got a gun. Gun. Hey bro, you [beep] move, I swear to god.
POLICE OFFICER: Get on the ground.
BYSTANDER: What was that for man?
POLICE OFFICER: [indiscernable] shots fired, shots fired. [beep]
AMY GOODMAN: The officers involved, Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II, have been placed on paid administrative leave. In 2014, Lake was placed on paid leave after being involved in the shooting of another African-American man, Kevin Knight. On Wednesday, Alton Sterling’s family addressed the media. This is Quinyetta McMillan, the mother of Sterling’s son, Cameron. At the beginning of the press conference, the 15-year-old Cameron consoled his mother as she spoke. But after a few minutes, he broke down into the arms of supporters standing behind the two of them.
QUINYETTA MCMILLAN: Alton Sterling, regardless if you knew him or not, he is not what the mass media is making him out to be. This is a play to try and obscure the image of a man who’s simply trying to earn a living. To take care of his children. With that being said, the individuals involved in his murder took away a man with children who depended upon their daddy on a daily basis. My son is not the youngest. He is the oldest of his siblings. He is 15 years old. He had to watch this as this was put all over the outlets. And everything that was possible to be shown. As some may know, Alton sold CDs, and was doing just that. Not bothering anyone. And had the consent of the store owners as well. And then the events that recorded during the two officers, that this event would not go unjustice.
CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: That’s right.
QUINYETTA MCMILLAN: It would not go unnoticed, especially for the future.
CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: No justice, no peace.
QUINYETTA MCMILLAN: I, for one, will not rest or not allow him to be swept in the dirt.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Quinyetta McMillan ,the mother of Alton Sterling’s 15-year-old boy Cameron, who broke down and was held and supported by the people at the news conference. As we go to Baton Rouge where we’re joined by two guests. Edward “Ted” James is a Louisiana State Representative whose district includes part of East Baton Rouge Parish. And Donney Rose is with us, poet, activist, and youth development worker with Forward Arts, a non-profit youth spoken word program in Baton Rouge. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!. Ted James, let’s start with you. Your reaction to what has taken place and to what the police and the governor has said since? But first, talk about what you understand happened to Alton Sterling.
TED JAMES: To my understanding, both videos speak for themselves and Alton was a man that was well respected, well known in the community. He was there with the consent of the store owner selling CDs as he has done many days and many nights on that same street, the street on which I grew up and spent many, many years. And before Alton was shot and killed, he was tackled against the car. He was tased several times, and then he was murdered, as you see depicted in the two videos. I can’t even watch the second one. Just sitting here listening to the audio, it frightens me to even hear it.
The community, I will tell you, has shown an outpouring of support for the family. I’m extremely proud of the work that we have been able to do through our governor here. The federal government has responded in record time. You hadn’t seen that across the country, and it speaks to the level of — I guess the sad part is, it’s happened so many times that the federal government and states know what to do when police officers murder black men in their community. So the governor’s office reached out. There was a lot of coordination between our congressional representative Cedric Richmond and those local leaders on the ground. the federal government is here now taking over the investigation, which many of us called for — that was the first thing that we asked for, independent investigation. That’s only one small step. We don’t want the federal government to just investigate. We want them to do a thorough investigation. We don’t want any stone unturned. And as the family has continued to pray with us, they want justice and we want to see justice for Alton Sterling as well.