Saturday’s march on Washington led by the Reverend Al Sharpton was billed as a rally against police violence. The tragic deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, have released a tidal wave of nationwide protests and social commentary. Demonstrators see the overuse of police force as cruel and the freedom of un-indicted officers as criminal. They see it as their right and duty to insist that such incidents benefit from public scrutiny and reasoned debate. That insistence is as it should be in our democracy.
No matter what lens one uses, it is impossible to deny the racial and class implications of all three incidents. It is also impossible to ignore the significant disadvantage and presumed villainy of the African American male in these and countless other cases.
It all eerily echoes a poignant moment in history when the city of Atlanta, Georgia was exploded by a bloody, three-day race riot in 1906. More than 100 African Americans were killed, wounded or disfigured by mob violence. When many Atlanta police officers failed to protect African Americans, a state militia was summoned to stem the violence.
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