‘Boiling Point’ 

Civil rights groups ask for answers in shooting death of Brandon Webber.

Civil rights groups say the community's response to Wednesday's fatal shooting of Brandon Webber at the hands of U.S. Marshals officers last week went beyond the events of the week and is the result of years of injustice.

Just City said on Twitter that the neighborhood's response was based on "decades of sustained over-policing and entrenched policies that criminalize poverty.

"The loss of another young life was but a spark on the smoldering ashes that exist in so many neighborhoods in our community," Just City said. "Every single day in Memphis, young and old alike encounter oppressive systems, which are nearly impossible to avoid or escape."

click to enlarge U.S. Marshals shot and killed Brandon Webber last week during an arrest attempt. - FACEBOOK
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  • U.S. Marshals shot and killed Brandon Webber last week during an arrest attempt.

Just City said the courts demand more time and attention from the poor than the wealthy, so "even simple traffic tickets can cause a crisis." The group said "hefty" court costs and fees can result in a driver's license suspension. It is one way that Just City said those living in poverty are unfairly treated by the system.

"Law enforcement and courts demand accountability for the slightest misstep," Just City said. "Yet, when a life is taken in a hail of gunfire, we wait for days, weeks, or years for a simple description of what occurred, and officers are rarely, if ever, held accountable."

Hedy Weinberg, director of the ACLU of Tennessee, said last week that the community's response was "clearly one of pain, of frustration, of anger.

"While we in no way condone violence against police officers, the boiling point reached by some individuals in the crowd [last Wednesday] night is the consequence of decades of injustice, discrimination, and violence against black people in Memphis and beyond," Weinberg said. "Of course, people in Frayser are upset and angry. We should all be angry."

Weinberg said to ignore the pain of protesters and instead to respond with "a militarized show of police force only illustrates and reinforces the problem.

"To adapt the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., unrest is the language of the unheard," Weinberg said. "To stem the erosion of trust between the community and law enforcement, it is incumbent on Memphis leaders to start listening. This means acknowledging the community's legitimate pain and anger."

Weinberg also asked if officers attempted to de-escalate the situation before shooting Webber: "Was shooting Mr. Webber over a dozen times, if reports are accurate, really necessary?"

The Memphis branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) also asked for answers about Webber's shooting death.

Deidre Malone, president of the Memphis branch, said in a statement the group is "very interested" to know if the U.S. Marshals officers who shot Webber were wearing body cameras and if there "was a better way to engage Mr. Webber once he was located."

"Unfortunately for our citizens, Memphis is again in the spotlight over a shooting of an African American," Malone said. "The NAACP Memphis Branch will continue to ask these questions until we obtain a response."

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