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Murderers with Badges, Licensed to Kill: Nation Reels from Alton Sterling’s Death at Hands of Police

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In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a second video has surfaced showing the fatal police shooting of father of five Alton Sterling, who was fatally shot by police early Tuesday morning. Sterling was a 37-year-old African American. The two officers involved are both white. The video shows Sterling pinned to the ground by the two police officers. We speak to Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed, founder of Stop the Killing, a youth mentoring program based in Baton Rouge. His organization provided the first cellphone video of the police shooting of Alton Sterling.

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

NERMEEN SHAIKH: On Wednesday, the U.S. Justice Department announced it will lead an investigation into the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling. Baton Rouge Mayor Melvin Holden responded by telling reporters the city can be trusted to determine the facts of the shooting death.

MAYOR MELVIN HOLDEN: It’s not like we need to be handheld and spoon-fed when it comes down to doing what’s right. And so, when we tell you these things and what’s going on, it’s very, very important that you understand we are doing our best to make sure we get all the answers.

AMY GOODMAN: Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. also addressed reporters.

CHIEF CARL DABADIE JR.: At this point, like you, I am demanding answers. Like you, all my prayers are with this community and especially with the family and loved ones of Mr. Sterling, and all the members of the Baton Rouge Police Department who are working hard every single day.

AMY GOODMAN: The NAACP Baton Rouge head, Mike McClanahan, has called for the police chief to be fired. On Wednesday, Baton Rouge community leaders held a news conference to demand justice for Alton Sterling. This is the president of the Baton Rouge’s NAACP, Mike McClanahan.

MICHAEL McCLANAHAN: We’re actually here today to speak to the culture of the Baton Rouge Police Department. You know, this incident is only one incident in many. What we’re going to do today is root out the 1 percent of bad police officers that go around becoming the judge, the jury and the executioner of innocent people, period—but more specifically, innocent black lives.

AMY GOODMAN: We are now joined by Arthur Reed, known as “Silky Slim,” founder of Stop the Killing, a youth mentoring program based in Baton Rouge. His organization provided the cellphone video of the police shooting of Alton Sterling.

Can you explain how this happened, Arthur Reed? Can you explain this just horrifying video? How did you come to have this? How did you come to film this, your group?

ARTHURSILKY SLIMREED: Well, for several years, we have been gathering footage for documentaries that we do on urban violence, and we have several people that work with our organization that film things that they see in communities. So, this was something that we obtained and something that we knew we had to get out as soon as possible. And it is horrifying to look at the video. Like Ted said is that the first video is lookable, but it’s still disturbing; the second video is definitely heartbreaking and wrenching.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And can you talk about, Arthur Reed, previous incidents of police violence in Baton Rouge?

ARTHURSILKY SLIMREED: A few months ago, we had a individual in the Scotlandville area that was actually tased to death by the Baton Rouge Police Department. And that has just been put under a lawsuit. But they were justified in that. What we have here is acts of violence by the police department that is being passed down, and all of them are being justified. And that’s not just in Baton Rouge; that’s America, period. You look at the Eric Garner case, the Tamir Rice case and many other cases that are taking place in America. We can’t even get these individuals to be indicted, let alone brought to justice. And it is our belief here that we’re dealing with some type of secret society that’s imposing themselves as law enforcement and are definitely killing African Americans.

AMY GOODMAN: So, can you talk about how you came upon the Triple S, how you came upon the police with Alton Sterling?

ARTHURSILKY SLIMREED: Well, we’re not talking about how the video came into effect, because you got to realize this: If you have two police officers that just killed a man for doing what he do, what do you think they’ll do if they find out who actually shot the video? They will murder them. So, we’re not dealing with ordinary people here. We’re dealing with murderers that have badges, that is turned into a license to kill here.

AMY GOODMAN: But can you explain the evening that your group, Stop the Killing—the video that you were gathering?

ARTHURSILKY SLIMREED: Well, the video was gathered because individuals were aware that there was some type of disturbance at the store. When they got there, they started recording what they felt would actually be police brutality. And it escalated into a murder. So, the video, like Ted said, the video definitely speaks for itself. What’s so befuddling is how that you can watch this video and then still look at this as being justified. I think that’s sickening. And when you look at it, the issue is—what everybody is trying to point out, well, he had a gun in his pocket. He never reached for the gun. His hands was on his chest, and he was begging, “Please, don’t kill me.” So, all of that’s on the tape. You can hear that. So, if I’m trying to murder a police officer or anybody, I’m not going to be hollering, “Please, don’t kill me.” I’m going to be hollering, “I’m going to kill you.” So, we have to look at the facts in this. And I think the video speaks volumes for what actually happened. This was a execution. This was an assassination. This is murder at the fullest. And we don’t want to deal with that, because we always try to overlook these issues, especially when it comes down to the African-American community.

But what you see right here is that these communities are actually fed up with this. They’re sick and tired of seeing this happen to their loved ones. And at the end of the day, we look at a backlash, because we look at the violence that’s taking place in our community. Stop the Killing has been an organization that says that black lives matter, but we also let them know that black lives have to matter to black people first. So, we are pushing that agenda, as well. So, we can’t say that we’re not trying to deal with all the problems. We’re dealing with everything. We’re putting it all out on the table. But here in Baton Rouge, we have elected officials who don’t want to rock the boat. And you have to rock the boat here, because we cannot continue to let this happen and give them a license to kill us and don’t say anything.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you both for being with us, Arthur “Silky Slim” Reed, founder of Stop the Killing, the youth mentoring program based in Baton Rouge—his organization provided the cellphone video of the police shooting of Alton Sterling; and thanks so much to Ted James, Louisiana state representative whose district includes part of East Baton Rouge Parish; as well as Donney Rose, poet, activist, youth development worker with Forward Arts.

And this just note, before we go to break: The man who filmed the chokehold death of Eric Garner, Ramsey Orta, is headed to prison today for four years, the Daily News is reporting—soon. Ramsey Orta was in Manhattan Criminal Court to collect paperwork on Wednesday, said he’s pleading guilty to a weapons and drug charge, and is preparing to head upstate as part of that plea deal—the only person in the Eric Garner case who has been jailed. This is Democracy Now! When we come back, two authors join us to talk about killers with a badge. Stay with us.

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