Activists Use Video To Document Police Violence
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
One big reason Alton Sterling's death became national news was a cell phone video and a warning that even the audio is a bit disturbing. It captured police officers struggling with, then shooting Sterling.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: He's got a gun. Gun.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Unintelligible).
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Unintelligible).
(SOUNDBITE OF GUNSHOT)
SHAPIRO: That video was filmed by a Baton Rouge activist group called Stop the Killing, Inc. The group's founder is Arthur Reed, who goes by Silky Slim, and he joins us now. How did your group get involved with the Alton Sterling shooting?
ARTHUR REED: Basically, we gather video of violent footage all the time, and we listen to scanners every single day to find out where these violent acts are taking place. And when we listen to these scanners, when we hear certain codes, we will go to that location. We will go to the address that we hear on the scanners. However, with this particular video, we're not sure if they actually heard the call. We just know that the video was captured, and when it was turned over to me, I knew the importance of that video.
SHAPIRO: Tell me why you decided not to release the video immediately after you obtained it.
REED: We wanted to give the police department and the city a chance to be transparent with what was going on. Immediately after the killing, the police officers put the owner of the store in the back of a police car, confiscated his hard drive, took his cell phone and basically placed him under arrest for no charges. We wanted to see if they were going to release the store video. We wanted to see how transparent it was going to be.
So they're saying, well, we have video. We have body cameras. We have everything that we need to do a thorough investigation. Then the next day, they come out and say, well, the body cameras fell off the officers, so we don't have that video. And then they didn't produce to store surveillance footage, so that let us know that we needed to release what we had nationally. And that's why we used social media through several outlets to make sure that we get this thing up and running.
SHAPIRO: And, of course, after this incident in Baton Rouge, we've seen another killing in Minnesota. What do you make of the scenario there, where the incident was live-streamed on Facebook?
REED: I think that was very smart of her to live-stream it. That way, if they would have told her to stop recording, it wouldn't have been one of those days where they could have just made her shut her phone off. It was already being recorded. I think that's a very, very sad incident right there, but the focus has been turned to what has taken place there. And this is - Alton is definitely yesterday's news because something new has happened now. And that shows you how fast these incidents are happening.
We were praying and hoping that nothing would happen and that this wouldn't happen again in our country, but unfortunately less than 24 hours - when we were receiving the attention that we feel that this case should get, it's turned somewhere else. And I'm afraid to go to sleep tonight 'cause I'm thinking that we're going to hear something tomorrow. I mean, this is saddening.
SHAPIRO: Obviously, technology has really become a powerful tool in these scenarios. What kinds of guidance do you offer people around the country about how best to use the technology at their disposal?
REED: Film what you're filming, understand what you're filming, and don't over talk yourself on what you're filming. If you have to talk while you film, make sure that you use clean language so that this can be material that can be used for the media. This is important right now in this time. You have to thank God for iPhones, Samsung and all of the many brands that have offered us this type of technology. You have to thank God for social media.
These stories are not new stories to the urban community. We've been saying that police are killing people and covering it up. But there's that other side of society that hasn't ever seen anything like this and will be quick to say, oh, man, no police officer is going to just kill you. These people are crazy. But now that we have footage, and we have video, we're showing you exactly what's going on and how it has been going on for so long. Right now, we just have a way of exposing it. And the sad part about it is that even though we are getting the video and we're getting the actual killings, there's still no accountability for what has taken place.
SHAPIRO: That was Arthur Reed, a.k.a. Silky Slim. His Baton Rouge activist group is called Stop the Killing, Inc. They film police encounters, including the one this week that ended with Alton Sterling's death. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.