Following the innocent verdict of the police officer who killed Philando Castile, thousands took to the streets in protest. Prosecutors charged Yanez with a second-degree manslaughter felony, saying that “no reasonable officer” would have used deadly force in the same situation. Yanez was also charged with two felony counts for intentionally discharging his gun. Although Yanez has been acquitted, he will not be returning to the police force.
In Philando’s death, Yanez approached the car during a regular traffic stop, asked for Castile’s license and insurance. After Castile gave Yanez the information, Castile told him there was a gun in the car, as is legally required. After Castile said he was not pulling out the gun, Yanez became frightened by Castile’s slight movements after hearing about the existence of the gun. Even though Castile said he wasn’t going to pull out the concealed gun, Yanez screamed at Castile “Don’t pull it out” while Yanez pulled out his own. Yanez then proceeded to shoot, seven times, a defenseless Castile who was wearing his seatbelt.
After the verdict on Yanez, protestors blocked Interstate-94 to show their disapproval of officer Jeronimo Yanez. After the verdict, Castile’s mother said outside the courtroom that Yanez got away with murder, but he “will not get away with divine justice.” She went on to say, “the system continues to fail Black people.”
The #Justice4Philando organization called for a coming together event “to protest this failure of justice.” The protestors began their march at the Capitol and made their way toward the I-94 freeway. Protestors left a sign at the Capital that read “The system is guilty.”
Unlike previous blocking of traffic, protestors made sure to make traffic aware of their presence on the highway. The St. Paul Police Department estimated that over 2,000 people participated in the protest. Organizers posted on Facebook that “this verdict shows how the system is rigged against justice for victims of police terror.”
Sherrilyn Ifill, director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, spoke about how difficult the system is making it to prosecute police officers. She said, “This incident seemed so egregious and avoidable that we hoped that this time, it might be different –that this time, justice might be served. Because if the government can take your life and no one is held responsible, you are a second-class citizen, if not fully dehumanized in the eyes of the law. That is the devastating message this verdict, along with all those similar acquittals before it, send to communities of color across the nation.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement: “Two Supreme Court decisions from the 1980s allow officers to use deadly force when a reasonable officer on the scene could reasonably fear for their safety. These two decisions create an atmosphere where police violence is sanctioned based on what we think a hypothetical officer could have felt, even if, in reality, the officer was acting recklessly, had ill motives or was acting based on implicit bias. Taking another person’s life is the most extreme action a police officer can take, and consequently new standards are needed to better ensure that police killings happen rarely.”
-Featured photo by Lindsey Seavert