Was it justified? Why did the police approach him? What could both sides have done differently? There are multiple lingering questions after the video release of an unnamed CPD officer fatally shooting the armed 37-year-old Harith “Snoop” Augustus on July 14. While much commentary and debate will continuously grapple said questions, Augustus’s family and the community must deal with loss in the midst of thousands witnessing Augustus’ viral death.
A vigil in honor of Augustus occurred July 18, after days of community unrest in response to the video. A host of Community organizations including the Revolutionary Community Party USA, Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), and International Socialist Organization (ISO) all had representatives not only paying their respects but listening to South Shore voices speaking on behalf of their fallen friend.
“He’s not here to represent himself, so we have to represent him,” says Adonis Johnson, Augustus’ boss and owner of Sideline Studio, to a crowd of media and observers. “The only way we can represent Snoop is from a respectable standpoint. We want justice, but we want justice in a lot of areas. We don’t want justice just because someone lost their life; we want it because that’s what we need each and every day.”
In an effort to encourage, Johnson’s neutral tone focused on a message of self-help and self-accountability. During his speech, he called for more businesses in the neighborhood and spoke parts of his life story hoping to touch others. Careful with his words, he managed to steer clear of placing blame solely on the police or Augustus for the cause of the vigil. In Johnson’s own words, “We all have to do better.”
In a brief interview Shamar Hemphill, Senior Organizing Director of IMAN, took it upon himself to “illuminate” Harith Augustus’ backstory. Hemphill calls Augustus a “very beautiful brother” who started carrying a pistol shortly after his workplace was broken into and vandalized.
“He wanted to protect the community,” Hemphill declares. “There are a lot of block-gangs in South Shore, especially on 71st. He was really trying to be a watchman and make sure kids are safe. Then, he was approached [by police].”
After Adonis Johnson’s speech, a visibly frustrated William Calloway rallied the crowd. “I’m really super-tired of coming to these vigils,” Calloway starts. “In our community, I’ve been to a hundred of these. In the past four or five years, I’ve literally been to a hundred of these.”
Calloway’s comments are not an exaggeration. Before Augustus’ death, Calloway supported countless families on Chicago’s South and West sides while they mourned the loss of a loved one. Augustus is the hot topic of today but Calloway remembers marching for Alfontish “NuNu” Cockerham and attending a vigil for Paul O’Neal, two Black young men killed by Chicago Police–both shot in the back.
Calloway has been fighting for police accountability for five years, with his biggest victory being the public release of the Laquan McDonald video. At the vigil, he tells the crowd that he and his attorney have filed a lawsuit to sue the Chicago Police Department for all audio and video footage showing Augustus’ death. He believes the lone viral video released by CPD only shows a perspective that’s beneficial to the officers involved, not Augustus.
“We don’t want to wait 60 days. We need all video and audio released immediately,” cries Calloway. “You had no constitutional grounds [for] stopping that man. Have we forgotten about Philando Castile? This man had a concealed carry license on him and police still shot him!”
Calloway continued by linking Augustus’ death to a systemic problem with police and Laquan McDonald. Jason Van Dyke, the police officer who killed McDonald, just recently received a trial date for September 5h. Calloway believes if Van Dyke is found not guilty, the city’s Black population should have an uprising.
“If Jason Van Dyke walks for what he did to Laquan McDonald, each and every one of us need to rise up and shut this City down. Nothing should move,” demands Calloway.
Last to speak at the Vigil was Dionell “Rev’d The Barber” Hill, friend, and coworker of Harith Augustus. Dressed in a custom-made shirt with “Snoop Tha Barber” emblazoned on his sleeve, the soft-spoken “Rev’d” wanted to call attention again to self-accountability and peace. He mentions Augustus as a God-fearing man who would have wanted solutions rooted in peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
“I’m a man of God,” says Rev’d. “I know this is something that God wanted. I brought this together for solutions of love. Most of all, we have to have the solution to forgive. We have a right to be angry but God is in control.”
After the vigil concluded, that anger intensified.
Community activist Jedidiah Brown led a small group to 71st and Jeffrey for a brief civil disobedience. To the police’s dismay, the group used their bodies to barricade oncoming traffic near the Metra line. “Justice for Snoop” chants rang out as police proceeded to brandish wooden clubs. The police slowly moved the community group to the sidewalk after several heated verbal exchanges.
“Why can’t we have a peaceful protest without the police stopping us,” one man constantly yelled to a white-shirt officer.
Protests for Harith Augustus are beginning to sunset, but recently Augustus’ family broke silence with a public statement in response to the tragic events.
“We acknowledge the emotions felt and expressed by so many in our community who witnessed the last seconds of his life, that have also been displayed before the world, via police body-cam footage,” says the statement.
“We have heard the voices of many who have shared heartfelt and timely concerns in the form of protest, memorials and requests for accountability and full transparency. We are grateful for the support you continue to show as we grieve the loss of our son and brother, Harith Liu Augustus.”
No further details have been given on COPA’s investigation on Augustus’ death, but a community remains struggling to locate solutions and find answers.