nothing can describe the rage Black people are feeling right now.
The officer who killed Philando Castile, Jeronimo Yanez, was found not guilty on all counts by a mostly-white jury after 5 days of deliberation.1
And as I write this, my hands tremble on the keyboard, because the pain is unbearable. I knew the verdict was coming and had no faith the police would be held accountable. But it never hurts less. Because once again, we sit and watch a mother scream in pain because the person who murdered their loved one got away with it.
Even more enraging is that Yanez stands to actually PROFIT from the pain and suffering he’s caused. As soon as the verdict came down, the City of St. Anthony fired Yanez from the department–hoping to stop people from heading to the streets in rightful protest. They announced the city will begin negotiating a “separation agreement” to help Yanez “transition into a new career.”2
So Yanez has been on a paid vacation for almost a year and now the department is offering him to walk away with a wad of cash? Hell no. Ain’t no way we can allow him to profit from the murder of Philando Castile–by any means.
This was a clear cut case. Philando Castile did nothing wrong and was killed for no reason other than the color of his skin. He followed the officer’s every order and immediately alerted him that he was carrying a legal weapon. On a live video, we watched as his girlfriend Diamond Reynolds had to stay as calm and docile as humanly possible to avoid being killed herself–ending every sentence with “sir.”3 But none of that mattered. A courtroom of white jurors was still able to find a way to determine that Yanez killing Philando with seven shots was okay. They were still able to determine that having a police badge means having a license to kill Black people with impunity.
Philando should be here. He should be alive. And though the system keeps trying to tell us that they don’t, Black Lives DO Matter.
Philando Castile was pulled over more than 31 times for traffic stops before his death–and faced over 63 misdemeanor traffic charges.4 He was being pulled over for driving while Black and dealing with anti-Black state violence so much that it almost guaranteed he might eventually have a fatal encounter. He owed thousands of dollars in fines to the city–a clear example of the state extracting wealth from the Black community. The words of Valerie Castile couldn’t have been truer after the verdict came down, “My son loved this city, and this city killed my son.”5
Now, the City of St. Anthony is coming to the aid of a killer instead of coming to the aid of a family in mourning–and it’s sickening.
There is no magical thinking, special technology, research report or legal tactic that will stop this from happening. All I can say is that we must continue to organize our people, expand the base, leverage smart strategy to change the written and unwritten rules. Along the way we have to use and change the law, amplify smart research and tech and believe that change is possible — but most of all we must build power. Convictions of police for violence and misconduct don’t change the system alone but when we are able to hold police accountable it sends a powerful message.
Until justice is real,
— Arisha, Rashad, Scott, Clarise, Anay, Malaya, Enchanta, Katrese, and the rest of the Color Of Change team.
1. “Minn. Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez Found Not Guilty on All Charges in the Shooting Death of Philando Castile,” The Root, 06-16-2017
2. “City of St. Anthony fires Yanez,” Star Tribune, 06-16-2017
3. “Woman Live-Streams After Police Fatally Shoot Boyfriend,’ ABC News, 07-06-2017
4. “EXCLUSIVE: Black Man whose shooting death by police was livestreamed by girlfriend had been pulled over AT LEAST 31 times and hit with 63 traffic charges,” DailyMail, 07-08-2016
5. “Philando Castile’s Mom: ‘I’m Mad As Hell Right Now, Yes I Am!,'” Colorlines, 06-16-2017,