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Savage violence against young black men in America must end

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Private Westlake mall security pepper-sprayed and then arrested a young black male bystander at a Palestine justice demonstration in Seattle, Washington this week. The video above shows what happened right after the young man was sprayed in his eyes with the chemical weapon.

Seattle organizers explain what happened:

Demonstrators protest the violence in Gaza during a pro Palestine rally in Seattle. As protestors lined the sidewalks in Westlake Park, a pro Israel supporter walks by, harassing the demonstrators, yelling in peoples faces, screaming obscenities, and racial slurs. After crossing the street and harassing another group of demonstrators, the man tore off his shirt and began walking towards the group with fists clenched. As someone who wasn’t a part of the demonstration walked by, the pro Israel supporter turned and said something as he passed. The man then turned around as if he was going to swing, but thought better of it. The pro Israel supporter squared off with him, but a Westlake security guard who was watching the interaction pulled out his pepper spray, and sprayed the innocent passerby, grabbed him by the arm and tried to wrestle him to the ground. He was eventually led off into Westlake Center as SPD arrived on the scene. The [above] Youtube video…is post pepper spray but pre arrest.

The assault on the young man comes the same week as two young black men were killed by police while apparently minding their own business: Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles. Police still haven't released the autoposy report in Ferguson, and are withholding the name of the shooting officer. Witnesses in LA say that the LAPD officer shot Ford three times while he was lying on the ground, complying with officer demands.

Huffington Post reports that a man identifying himself as the deceased Ford's cousin spoke with a local radio station and explained what happened:

"They laid him out and for whatever reason, they shot him in the back, knowing mentally, he has complications. Every officer in this area, from the Newton Division, knows that — that this child has mental problems," the man said. "The excessive force … there was no purpose for it. The multiple shootings in the back while he’s laying down? No. Then when the mom comes, they don’t try to console her … they pull the billy clubs out."

As these events and so many others from this week and the past three hundred plus years demonstrate, it's dangerous to be a black man on the streets of the USA. When "hands up, don't shoot" becomes the anthem for a new protest movement to combat police violence against African Americans, we know all the progress we've made isn't close to cutting it. So kudos and solidarity to the young and old people of Ferguson, Missouri, who are risking tear gas and even death to hold their government accountable for its violence. May we all join them.

Black lives matter.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.