In 2015, there have been 791 people killed by the police. Of those people, 103 of them were killed in the month of August alone. The youngest was 12 years old, while the oldest was 65 years old. They include Freddie Grey whose spine was severed while riding unrestrained in a Baltimore police van. They include Walter Scott in South Carolina, shot eight times after being stopped for a broken traffic light. And they include Tamir Rice, the 12-year old boy shot in Cleveland for holding a toy gun. They don’t include many others such as Sandra Bland who died in police custody after being stopped at a traffic light in Texas. The real statistics on how many people are killed by the police can’t be known as long as so many deaths are considered accidental or self-inflicted.
It’s not just about murderous police. While black people are only 12 percent of the population, a black person is 3.5 times more likely to be shot by police than a white person. This society targets black people with prejudice, suspicion, and ultimately violence. The main function of the police is to use violence to enforce the poverty of this society.
While the numbers of people who have been shot are nothing new, the amount of anger bubbling beneath the surface of this society has started to boil over as we saw in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York and around the country when people took to the streets to protest. These protests have done more than just express anger. They’ve changed consciousness. Polls show that since protests began in Ferguson, overall American public opinion has shifted, and in a matter of months more people understand that the police killings of black Americans are a connected pattern. But even more importantly, the people who became active during the protests have seen their actions have an impact. That experience will be important in all the battles to come.