Straight Outta Baton Rouge: Protester Speaks Out

Baton Rouge born and raised Aaron Banks has taken part in all the protests against police killings. Today, he shares his opinion on Alton Sterling’s murder and the issue of police brutality in the community as a whole.

Almost right after Alton Sterling was killed by the Baton Rouge police, people gathered peacefully and purposefully around the Triple S convenience store, where Sterling had been selling CDs. And later that day, the protesters went to the police headquarters. We interviewed one of the protesters, an activist, Aaron Banks. As a resident of this community, Aaron knew Alton Sterling and cares about his native city and the Black community within it.

We have a lot of women out here again ready to protest. We need our men out here downtown.

Видео опубликовано Mystro (@mystrotbl)
Hello, Aaron. What’s the current mood in Baton Rouge right now?
Aaron Banks
A lot of people are just expressing their views more right now since new videos have surfaced in Minnesota. And it’s all tied into what happened here.
Could you tell us about Alton Sterling?
Aaron Banks
I’ve seen him a few times myself selling CDs. He was pretty much respected. I’ve never seen him actually having a problem with anyone. Normally, I’ve never seen him as a negative person but I don’t know him that well. I have friends that are actually related to him. I may be possibly a relative because I’m a Sterling household but that’s a different story. But whenever I saw him he was in good spirits just trying to make a living selling CDs.
Have you had the chance to talk to any close relatives, friends?
Aaron Banks
I’ve talked to a friend of mine that’s related to him and he didn’t have anything bad to say about him. He’s just shocked that things took a turn for what they are right now. They just pretty much understood that even if he’s just got released from Parish Prison and he may have been illegally carrying his firearm that was no reason for him to die. If anything, he should have been arrested and just gone to jail for violating the law instead of what actually happened to him. So that’s really where the outrage comes from because it didn’t have to go that far.
As seen and heard in the video, Alton was brought down by the cops and one of them said: “he’s carrying a gun” before he shot. Was he really carrying an illegal gun?
Aaron Banks
Yes, a gun was taken from his pocket after he was murdered. Just from word of mouth, I don’t know if he was a convicted felon. I don’t know if he had misdemeanors on his record or not but from my understanding, if he was a convicted felon, then yes, he was illegally possessing his firearm. But according to the incident and how it happened in the video, he didn’t have his firearm in his hand, he wasn’t reaching for his firearm, but just on any other day, he was illegally possessing it if he was a convicted felon.
Would you say there was an attempt to cover up the murder? Because according to officials, the body cams the officers were wearing fell off during the incident.
Aaron Banks
Before the video surfaced and went viral, there was just a lot of word saying that they didn’t have a lot of footage, that they would likely not know what really happened because the video cameras fell off the officers. And there were some statements made and that were going around, that he was waving his firearm, that he had a firearm and things like that. But there’s no footage captured before the incident that may give evidence to those statements so we don’t know. From my understanding, an anonymous caller called and said that this person had his firearm and whatever the case may be and that’s why the officers went to the scene, but that’s all I actually know so I won’t say that the evidence was being covered up completely. I think that there was a lot of hearsay going on and it just kind of caused a lot of confusion as to what actually took place. But I won’t rule it out. I think right now people just want legal matters to take place honestly and properly so those are the right decisions to be made for this case. And according to both videos that we see, his firearm was in his pocket, he never tried to reach for it, he didn’t have it in his hand, and it was actually pulled out from his pocket after he was shot at point blank range.
Is this the first incident of police brutality here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana?
Aaron Banks
No, no. There are many cases out there. There are many incidents out there that people have experienced with law enforcement. It’s just that, now, with the new wave of smartphones that are able to show evidence of what a lot of people of color like myself, a black person, have been saying for so many years, that finally people can just pick up a phone and show that we’ve been saying this, we’ve been going through this. Now that we have phones and technology and people have cameras all over the place, when these types of situations happen, there’s footage that goes in line with people making these statements.
Would you say that the protests going on right now are not just based on what happened to Alton Sterling, but they are a result of what’s been happening in the past?
Aaron Banks
Yeah. I’ll say that. People have experienced this before. Families have experienced similar situations like this to the point where enough is enough. And when you know of people or you’ve experienced this type of situations yourself and then you see a video surface like this, that brings back old memories of when someone you know experienced this or what you yourself have experienced. And to the point where it brings back old emotions, to the point where, yes, you are outraged and angry and want something done and you want it to stop. So that’s why you see people crying everywhere and in outrage, cursing, ready to be violent because they’re just emotionally drained from situations like this.

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