Moral Mondays Leader Rev. Barber: Release Video of Keith Scott Shooting, It Belongs to the Public

September 23, 2016


Rev. Dr. William Barber

president of the North Carolina NAACP and Moral Mondays leader.

For a third night in a row, protesters chanted "release the video!" as they took to the streets and called for police to release video of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. His grieving family has been shown the dashboard and body camera videos of his fatal shooting, but Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney says he had no plans to release the video at this time. We get response from Rev. Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and Moral Mondays leader. His most recent book is titled "Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show in Charlotte, North Carolina.

PROTESTERS: Release the video! Release the video! Release the video! Release the video! Release the video! Release the video! Release the video! Release the video!

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: For a third night in a row, protesters chanted "Release the video!" as they took to the streets and called for police to release video of the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. Charlotte’s mayor imposed a midnight-to-6:00-a.m. curfew that some protesters defied.

JOYA: I don’t agree with that, simply because I’m grown and I feel like I should be able to, you know, stay out as long as I want. As far as my reasons for doing this, I have one sibling, and he is my brother, and I feel like it’s my duty to protect him. If anything, you know, he kind of looks up to me. So, that’s my reason for doing it. And if they take him away from me, I won’t have anything left.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Meanwhile, the protester who police say was the victim Wednesday of a civilian-on-civilian shooting has died. But several eyewitnesses dispute that explanation. A Charlotte public defender named Eddie Thomas, who was at the protest to observe interactions between police and the public, told The Guardian he saw what happened. Thomas said, quote, "There was no fight. There was no issue between protesters. It just didn’t happen." Thomas said he believes the protester was shot by a tear gas canister, pepper ball or other projectile that caused him to stumble back and hit his head on the brick sidewalk.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes as the grieving family of Keith Scott has been shown the dashboard and body camera videos of his fatal shooting. Police say they shot Scott after he got out of his car and brandished a gun. But in a statement for the family, attorney Justin Bamberg said that it’s not what he saw when he watched the video with the family. He spoke on MSNBC.

JUSTIN BAMBERG: What I see in that video is an individual who was sitting in a car, who gets out in a calm, peaceful manner. He never appears to be aggressive. It seems like he’s a tad confused. I don’t know if he’s getting yelled at from too many directions. His hands are down. There does appear to be some object in his hand, but you can’t make out what it is. At the moment he is shot, he’s actually stepping backwards.

GABE GUTIERREZ: OK. Did he have a gun?

JUSTIN BAMBERG: As far as I know, I don’t know. You know, we know that law enforcement is saying that he had a gun. I have not seen any definitive evidence aside from what law enforcement is saying.

AMY GOODMAN: Scott’s family has called for the videos of his death to be made public. But Charlotte Police Chief Kerr Putney says he had no plans to release the video at this time. On Thursday, he said the video is inconclusive.

POLICE CHIEF KERR PUTNEY: There’s your truth, my truth and the truth. Some people have already made up their minds what happened. We’ve given multiple facts, and there will be an update later this afternoon about more additional information we’re getting. But that still doesn’t change the mindset and the perspective of some who want to break the law and tear down our city. So, if there is compelling information that I think helps, we’ll show it. But again, I’m going to be—I’m going to be very intentional about protecting the integrity of the investigation, and in so doing, I’m not going to release the video right now.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Charlotte’s police chief.

For more on the Keith Lamont Scott killing, we go to North Carolina, where we’re joined in Raleigh by the Reverend Dr. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, Moral Monday leader. He’s been participating in the Democracy Awakening mobilizations. His most recent book, Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and the Rise of a New Justice Movement.

Reverend Barber, it’s great to have you back on Democracy Now! Can you please respond to what’s happening in Charlotte, first the killing and the refusal of the city, the police chief, to release the video, unlike what happened in Tulsa, where the police did release the video, and now the police officer who killed the African-American man in Tulsa has been indicted?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Well, thank you, first of all, for having me, Amy and both of you.

Here we have a situation where there are only three possible scenarios. One, an unarmed African-American man with a book was shot, and the police, black and white, conspired to place a gun at the scene to suggest that he had been aggressive. Two, an African-American man had a gun, which is not illegal in North Carolina, an open-carry state, and was shot by the police. Three, an African American had a gun, brandished it violently at the police and was shot.

Now, we don’t know what happened, because the—no one has released the tape. We’ve called on the governor—who, by the way, is against releasing tapes—the attorney general, the mayor, the prosecutor, the police chief to release the tapes. We know that if these tapes had shown a citizen, for instance, shooting a cop, these tapes would be released. We’ve also called for an independent federal investigation, not just the SBI, because in North Carolina the SBI is under the governor, and it’s—and, too often, that’s not enough.

We’ve also found out that some of the officers did not have their body cameras on. This came from the police chief. And the clergy there and organic organizers have called for the firing of those police. Why would you not have your body cameras on? This is a very serious matter.

And 99.999 percent of the protesters, who are, by the way, black and white and young and old and Christians and Jews and Muslims and people of different races, colors and creed, have been nonviolent justice protesters asking for what should automatically trigger—we believe it should be an automatic trigger in these kinds of shootings that the tapes are released and there’s a federal investigation.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Reverend Barber, yesterday afternoon, you and other faith leaders had a press conference where you called for the ability of the community to be able to protest peacefully, and also you called for no curfew. You requested no curfew.


JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But then, late yesterday, the mayor did order a curfew. How do you feel that has helped or made the situation worse in Charlotte?

REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Yeah, well, first of all, if you go back, even on Tuesday night, the protests were peaceful, until the police showed up in riot gear and actually herded a group of protesters down into a car garage and then proceeded, according to eyewitnesses, to take out their batons and hit people, create confusion. And that’s where the young man got shot, which is why there’s so much confusion about how he actually was shot.

You know, there are people who may want to politicize this. You know, our governor all of a sudden called for a state of emergency. Charlotte is a convention city. There’s enough police there and in surrounding areas, they did not need a state of emergency, because it was only about two dozen people that were engaging in the violence, provocateurs. It was not the overwhelming majority. Clergy were in the street on Tuesday night and on Wednesday night, and they were there last night. We thought we had an agreement that there would not be a curfew. There was no reason for a curfew. There’s no reason to try to militarize a city and put all of that focus on those things and to suggest we can’t contain a few provocateurs.

The real energy ought to be in releasing these tapes, getting an independent federal investigation. Remember, this man was not even the suspect they were looking for. This city is a city where you had another young man, Jonathan Ferrell, who was shot multiple times, a college student who was disoriented in a wreck and had asked for help. He was shot multiple times and killed. The officer was indicted, was tried, but there was a hung jury. And there’s been no attempt to retry that officer. Until there are indictments and convictions and prosecutions and incarceration by police who hide behind the badge and commit murder, we’re going to continue to have these problems. Now, we’re not saying that’s what happened here, but what we are saying is the video needs to be released. That’s public property. That’s the point of having the videos. And even the family is calling for the release of the video.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, Reverend Barber, I want to ask you about this, because Governor McCrory has just signed into law a bill that would seal the video. And it’s going into effect August—October 1st, which, again, is a few days away, so it wouldn’t apply here. So you have the cities of North Carolina—let’s look at Charlotte right now—putting millions into, you know, video of police and body cams and all of that. But then that information will solely be seen by the police, unless they choose to release it. But this—the law has not even gone into effect.


AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain McCrory’s move? So, the police get millions of dollars again.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER: That’s right.

AMY GOODMAN: But this just further empowers them, because they’re the only side that will have the information. And that’s what the police chief right now is enforcing, even though the family has called for its release, as well.

REV. WILLIAM BARBER: Yeah, the family, experts have called for it, around the country and both in Charlotte. You know, McCrory and Trump together are playing a dangerous game in our society. And this is what they’re doing. They’re trying to make the legitimate discontent of African Americans and white and brown people who are challenging bad police—nobody is challenging good police. We love good police. But good police don’t like bad police. So they want to, number one, not even have a conversation about race and police brutality. That’s number one. Number two, they want to make the narrative that the protesters are anti-police and that they are pro-protecting police. So, for instance, our Legislature comes up with a bill like this, basically saying we want to suppress the videos and protect the police.

Now, remember, McCrory, like Trump, or Trump, like McCrory, are suppressors-in-chief. He signed a bill to suppress the vote. That was found unconstitutional. He has suppressed access to Medicaid expansion for 500,000 people. You have to understand this context to understand the frustration. He’s suppressed people getting a living wage. He’s tried to suppress teachers’ right to have a union. He’s suppressed money for public education. He signed a bill to suppress the LGBTQ community. And he’s suppressed the ability for North Carolinians to file employment discrimination cases in federal—in state court.

And now he wants to suppress the public’s video. Understand, the public owns these videos. This is taxpayer money. It is wrong-headed. It is not the kind of openness that we need. It creates and causes more tension, more animosity, more distrust, because there is not transparency. And it sounds more like the old South, the South of suppression, the South that would hold things back, rather than what we need, is a new South and a new America that says let the tapes be shown. That’s not going to distract from investigation. It’s not going to take away from due process. We do not want people tried on the street, prosecuted on the street. But what we do want, when the facts dictate, and the tapes shall show, and there’s probable cause, for the law to say you cannot hide behind a badge and commit what we call MBP, murder by police. You cannot do that, because a badge, in the name of the state, paid by tax dollars, is too much power, with a gun, for a bigot or a trigger-happy person that does not protect and serve, and instead kills and destroys.

AMY GOODMAN: Reverend Dr. William Barber, we’re going to break, but we’re going to come back to this discussion, president of the North Carolina NAACP, leader of the Moral Mondays movement. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with him in a minute.

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