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Activists in Tampa rally to decry deadly force of police actions against Walter Scott & Lavall Hall

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The shooting death of Walter Scott as he was fleeing police last weekend has dominated national news coverage over the past week. But an incident in South Florida is equally troubling, said activists who convened in front of the federal building in Tampa on Saturday afternoon.

Lavall Hall was a 25-year-old mentally ill black man who was fatally shot by police in Miami Gardens back in February. But in a 19-minute police video that Hall’s family released on Wednesday, an officer is seen ordering Hall to ““get on the f—ing ground or you’re dead,” moments before shooting five deadly rounds.

The case is being investigated by Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez.

“We’re doing this event in response to Walter Scott, and also Levall Hall down in Broward County — both incidents of black men who were caught on tape being shot by police,” said Devan Cheaves, a member of the Bay Area Activist Coalition and Tampa Dream Defenders, said on Saturday.

Funeral services were held today in Summerville, S.C., today for Scott, a 50-year-old black man whose killing by a white police officer last weekend was captured on video, instantly catapulting his case into the nation’s debate about excessive use of force by the police.

“We’re starting to lose trust with our police based on Walter Scott, which is troubling because they’re supposed to protect and serve,” said Cheaves. “It’s a little bit disturbing, even more so for black and brown people, where the relationship between the police and black and brown people has been strained for decades, and rightfully so.”

Chives said that the group of people demonstrating in the hot and humid conditions on Florida Avenue on Saturday want more investigations — specifically in the Levall Hall case, and said that that the Walter Scott tragedy proves there’s a huge need for more transparency with the police.

“It’s what we need,” she said. “We deserve justice. Walter Scott s an example. There are many other cases that aren’t caught on tape and we just go with ‘oh well, this is what the police report says,’ and we just have to go with it, and hopefully what it will do is open up the lane of justice for future cases and past cases as well.”

After the shooting death of 18-year-old African American Michael Brown in Ferguson last summer, there was an instant clamoring nationally for police to start wearing body cameras — to provide clarity when confrontations turn tragic and there is a dispute about what actually occurred.

Local law enforcement agencies have moved to employ some of that technology in the Bay area, but some critics say it’s not enough, mentioning the Eric Garner case, where several Long Island policemen put a choke-hold on the African-American man last summer that  led to his death. The entire scene was completely captured by video. But no officers were charged in that case.

Out of those cases has come the movement now known as “Black Lives Matter.” Activists in Tampa held a flag bearing that statement on Saturday.

“How many stories have you heard in the last six months, in the last two years, over your lifetime that end the exact same way that Walter Scott’s did?” asked activist Ashley Greene, speaking to those present at the demonstration. “‘He reached for my weapon so I had to kill him.’ How many videos have never been released, how many witnesses have come forward and said, ‘we know it didn’t come out like that’ but they were (called) liars? They were ‘biased,’ of course.”

In South Carolina, Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and Democratic U.S. Rep. James Clyburn attended Walter Scott’s funeral today. The New  York Times reports that the pastor who presided over the services today, the Rev. George D. Hamilton, said that Scott had died because he was black.

He also said that while most law enforcement officers serve honorably, he urged the congressional representatives that they take up the case of police killings in Washington so that African Americans “don’t have to be scared every time they get pulled over.”

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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