By CHRIS HUTCHINSON
The police shooting of 18-year-old Ra’Shamel Rogers on March 9 in Waterbury, Conn., has mobilized community members in support of his family to demand answers and a transparent investigation. Ra’Shamel was unarmed and shot three times, twice in the abdomen and once in the lungs. Police are trying to justify the shooting by claiming that Ra’Shamel struck police with a car after being pulled over to investigate a stolen vehicle.
Police claims remain murky as the situation develops. Repeatedly, Ra’Shamel’s family was blocked from visiting him in the hospital. The name of the officer who shot Ra’Shamel was withheld from the family as well as the public. A flood of misinformation was given to the family by police, including the number of times he was shot and his medical condition. His condition was so serious that he needed to be airlifted to a second hospital—capable of performing the surgery to repair damaged bone and nerves.
On March 11, a rally was called outside the hospital in support of the family’s right to visit their son. Finally, Ra’Shamel’s mother, who flew in from Georgia, was granted access.
In a recent press release, both parents—Shana Calloway and Clinton Rogers—spoke of the toll this incident has taken on their family. “Since this happened, I’ve eaten maybe one meal and I forced myself to do so.” Rogers said. “I’ve had constant headaches. It’s weighing on me, but I’m ready to fight. This is stressful; I’ve never dealt with stress in my life on this level. I lost my father when I was eight, and this is a different kind of pain. It’s a helplessness.”
It is clear from previous statements that police in Waterbury have no interest in defending civil liberties. Past statements from the chief of police shed light on the obstacles that Ra’Shamel faced in trying to obtain fair treatment.
The press release mentioned above points out, “Waterbury Police Chief Vernon Riddick (the city’s first African American police chief) was criticized last year by Washington Post blogger Radley Balko for statements he made ‘to a mostly African-American crowd of more than 200 people at Mount Olive A.M.E. Zion Church’ following the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille. ‘If an officer stops your car,’ Riddick said, ‘if they ask to search your person or vehicle, if they demand entry into your home, comply and then complain later to the department’s internal affairs office and police chief’s office, if you feel your rights have been violated.’”
The press release continues, “In Balko’s words, ‘This is a police chief who, in a town hall meeting spurred by a rash of shootings both by and of police officers, is asking that citizens submit without question if an officer requests to search a vehicle, home or person. In the interest of “cooperation,” he’s asking a black audience to give up their Fourth Amendment rights.’”
In the absence of a nationally coordinated campaign capable of mobilizing millions in the streets against police brutality, the continued criminalization of the Black community will not let up anytime soon. Jeff Sessions, the newly appointed Attorney General and top cop in the U.S. has made it clear that he has no interest in interfering with the “new Jim Crow” carried out by local law enforcement everywhere.
Sessions wants to empower police departments and prosecutors across the country. This will mean higher rates of convictions and lengthier prison sentences, targeting the most vulnerable communities. His ideas clearly reflect the broader views of the Trump administration supporting such racist policies as “Stop and Frisk,” mass incarceration, and the school to prison pipeline.
Socialist Action stands in solidarity with the victims of police brutality everywhere. We want a society that prioritizes housing, health care, jobs, and education instead of mass incarceration. In Connecticut we urge our readers to be ready to mobilize in solidarity and stand with Ra’Shamel’s family in paying close attention to this investigation and demanding answers.
You can check for updates on the case by following People Against Police Brutality at Facebook.com/nhvcrb or Facebook.com/SocialistActionCT