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Marching for Said Joquin

Said demoLast year, on May 1, Said Joquin was shot dead by Lakewood Police. He had run a stop sign, and Officer Michael Wiley killed him. At this stage I don’t want to go into details, but when I get the information I’ll give my thoughts. The important details are that Said was a young African American, who needlessly lost his life.

The Black Panther Party of Washington took an immediate interest in Said’s case, and organized a demonstration, to coincide with celebrations for the City of Lakewood’s 25th anniverserty, on Saturday, September 25.

I should say that the Black Panthers are not as scary as they sound. Although they fight for social change, they are prepared to work with the system, and the bulk of their activites are charitable – for example feeding and clothing the homeless.

Before the demonstration started, the Panthers set up a tent, and marshalled their supporters. Some of Said’s family from North Carolina were there, and so was a sergeant from Lakewood Police Department, astride his bicycle.

Police sergeantAs a foreigner, coming from a country with some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, it was a strange scene. The Panthers, in combat gear, were open carrying rifles and pistols, and were almost treating the thing as a military operation. The police sergeant was discussing politics with them, in a way that was measured and civilized. He even sugggested, if I heard him right, that some of the Panthers could best serve their community by themselves joining the police.

Then the march started – and as the demonstrators left the marshalling ground, the sergeant called after them “Be nice!”.

Unfortunately attendance at the march was disappointing – I would have said no more than 25 people. If the Panthers had been able to get four times that number, they might have been able to seriously disrupt the City’s big day. And no one attending the celebrations wanted to interact with the marchers – except Lakewood’s mayor, Donald Anderson, who suggested to the Panthers that their open carry was a sign of insecurity.

I don’t know the exact reasons why the Panthers had guns. It might have been a good way – perhaps the only way – to get attention to their cause. Or perhaps they were signalling that they, rather than regular law enforcement agencies, are best positioned to defend the community.

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