The police killings of two African-American men in Louisiana and Texas this year have not garnered much attention outside of the region, but are disturbing and deserving of higher scrutiny. 73-year-old Bernard Monroe was shot to death by police in Homer, Louisiana in February in front of his own house during a family cookout, after police had chased his son Shaun to the home. The son was tased, but not charged with a crime.
In April, Kevin Jabriil LaDay died in Lumberton, Texas while in police custody, after he had driven his automobile into a ditch. Although an autopsy was “inconclusive” as to the cause of death, people in the Black community believe he was beaten to death. The Homer case attracted Al Sharpton, who led a march there in April, and the Lumberton case came to the attention of Quanell X of the New Black Panther Party, who staged a tense rally in front of the Lumberton Police Department, also in April. Even so, only continuing national coverage will keep these incidents from being swept under the rug like so many more have been.
The national news reported on a near-riot situation that developed in a downtown Paris, Texas park after competing rallies by out-of-town Black activists and white supremacists. The trouble stems from the mysterious death of 24-year-old Brandon McClellan, whose mangled body was found beside a highway in September 2008. Two white men, who claimed to be friends of the victim, were the last to be seen with him, and were, for a time, charged with his death. But evidence was scant, and, after an 18-wheel trucker claimed he might have hit something on the road that night, the two suspects were freed, much to the displeasure of the victim’s relatives, as well as Black community organizers from Fort Worth, Dallas and Houston. Their rallies led to counter-rallies by white groups, also from out-of-town, displaying Nazi and Confederate emblems. Paris has already been having economic problems, with plant closings, and has been desperately trying to recruit new industry, but new factories are not likely to choose a town that is nationally potrayed as racially torn. Brandon McClellan’s death was a tragedy, but so is the racial division encouraged by people who do not live in Paris, and won’t have to daily witness what they helped stir up.