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Activist Leader Reacts To Week Of Police Shootings

This week we saw two more video recordings of white police officers fatally shooting black men.

We spoke with Charlene Carruthers, national director of BYP100, a group that trains young black activists to do grassroots organizing, about the week’s events.

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Photos of Alton Sterling are interspersed with flowers and mementos at a makeshift memorial in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, La. Sterling, 37, was shot and killed outside the convenience store by Baton Rouge police, where he was selling CDs.

Photos of Alton Sterling are interspersed with flowers and mementos at a makeshift memorial in front of the Triple S Food Mart in Baton Rouge, La. Sterling, 37, was shot and killed outside the convenience store by Baton Rouge police, where he was selling CDs.

Gerald Herbert

This week we saw two more video recordings of white police officers fatally shooting black men.

On Tuesday, it was Alton Sterling shot by police officers outside of a convenience store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

And on Wednesday a recording apparently began just seconds after an officer opened fire on Philando Castile during a traffic stop in suburban Minnesota.

We spoke with Charlene Carruthers, national director of BYP100, a group that trains young black activists to do grassroots organizing, about the week’s events.

Over the last couple years protests around police shootings have been growing, from Ferguson to Chicago. How do you think that movement is shaping the conversation about the shootings this week?

I think that the shootings this week are a traumatic and sad reminder of how this country treats black people and the lack of value that is held over our lives. The movement that has been growing in the past couple of years really has continued to push the conversation about what it would mean to have safety beyond policing, [and] what it would mean to divest from policing.

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil-rights investigation in Baton Rouge and Minnesota’s governor is calling for a DOJ probe of the shooting there. Do these responses give you any confidence that they will be investigated fairly?

Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before. This is not the first time that a police officer has taken the life of a black person in this country, and so another investigation, I feel, will tell us more of what we already know. What we need to see is actual, real action on the ground. We need full civilian accountability, we need to divest from policing and [make] real investments in our community. Until that happens I won’t have more faith in any investigation.

I’m guessing BYP100 activists are frustrated and angry right now. What are you telling them to do with those feelings?

To be black in America, as James Baldwin said, is to live in a constant state of rage. And so that anger is always there. At any moment, for us, where we funnel our energy is into loving black people, loving each other, and organizing.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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