- SXSW 2014
Protestors gathered outside the Austin Police Department for 'Justice for Byron' rally.
Protesters rallied at Austin Police Department Saturday to condemn the shooting of 20-year-old Byron Carter.
Protesters met at Austin Police Department Saturday to condemn the shooting of 20-year-old Byron Carter, who was shot by police officer Nathan Wagner last year.
“We are here to gain public awareness and fight the injustice of all of the victims of APD,” said Dr. RL Johnson, President of Royal Society Civil Rights.
KVUE reports that around 11 p.m. on May 30, 2011 APD officers Jeffrey Rodriguez and Nathan Wagner were looking for car thieves downtown when they saw two people walking along 7th Street “acting suspiciously.” The walked up to a car parked on 8th Street. The officers could not initially see inside the car, but the lights came on, showing two men inside the vehicle.
According to police, the car lunged toward the officers, hitting Rodriguez and pinning Wagner against a nearby car. Wagner fired several shots, killing Carter and wounding the 16-year-old who was driving the car.
Wagner was cleared by a grand jury and will not face charges in the death of Carter.
“It simply boils down to racial profiling and an agenda of racism,” said Johnson.
Johnson and others, who gathered outside of APD headquarters, believe that the shooting was racially motivated and shows a trend across the country of racial profiling, such as in the case of Trayvon Martin.
Florida teen Trayvon Martin was shot by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman after “acting suspicious.” The teen was unarmed and an outcry from the public led to the arrest of Zimmerman for second-degree murder.
“He [Carter] was an unarmed passenger in the car. He wasn’t even driving,” said Michelle Uche, UT student and member of the International Socialist Organization.
Officer Rodriguez has filed a lawsuit against the 16-year-old driver for allegedly swerving at the officer and pinning him against a nearby vehicle. Carter’s family is also suing The City of Austin for his death.
According to protesters, APD has a history of shooting unarmed minorities. Most recently, the shooting of Ahmede Bradley created controversy when Officer Eric Copeland shot the unarmed man during a scuffle after a routine traffic stop.
“People automatically assume that because the police have shot someone that person has done something wrong,” said Uche. “We have seen time and again that these people have been unarmed, but they were black so they had to be taken down.”
Uche spoke at the event and criticized unemployment, unaffordable housing, the closing of East Austin schools and the defunding of Texas universities as current struggles for minorities.
“We are being pushed out of UT because of funding cuts. We have to either get loans or just not go to school,” said Uche.
Lily Hughes, Director of Campaign to End the Death Penalty, was in attendance at the rally to talk about inequalities that minorities face in the justice system.
According to a report by the Justice Department, African Americans make up 41.8 percent of all death row inmates even though they are only about 12.6 percent of the U.S. population. Whites make up 43.25 percent of death row population when they are 72.4 percent of the population.
“What people are really concerned with is this idea that black lives in particular are less valuable. This makes young black men a target to police who become trigger happy,” said Hughes.