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Another Victim in Raleigh

“Dey killed Venelle when I was 12, turned me against em / Sent me to my first funeral now I’m a victim (of tha law)”

-Lil Boosie, “Fuck the Police”

Senior Officer D.C. Twiddy shot Akiel Denkins on Feb. 29th, 2016. Twiddy shot a son, Rolanda Byrd’s. Twiddy shot a father of two. Twiddy shot a community member. Twiddy shot a human being. Twiddy took a life because the State said Akiel didn’t appear in court. Twiddy took a life because Akiel allegedly sold drugs. Twiddy took a life because the State decided to militarize the police and criminalize Black America. Twiddy did it, but the system is guilty.

In an interview with the local news, Rolanda calmly explained with a look of exasperation that community members informed her of her son’s murder. Community members told her how the crime was committed, Akiel’s life snuffed out. Witnesses say Akiel was in a car, saw the cops, and bolted. They say they heard the cop yell, “Stop, stop, stop”. They say they heard six or seven shots. They say each one went straight into Akiel’s back. The police, on the day they took Rolanda’s son’s life without a trial, told her nothing. They know their power is guarded by silence.

In Raleigh, North Carolina at S. East St. and Braggs Rd. at 7 P.M. Akiel’s community held a candlelight vigil and march. Black Lives Matter has made such a quick response possible, offering communities across America frames for the oppression they experience and repertoires of resistance. The response was also made possible by the existence of other organizations, like the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and Black Lives Matter Youth Assembly, who are ready to get folks on the ground and organizing. Anarchists had quickly hung a sign, white cloth with red and black lettering, with the clearest statement of emotion, “Fuck the Police”. It was a statement blaring from the speakers as folks played Lil Boosie’s “Fuck the Police”. This sentiment would be repeated later as a mother and son would begin chanting “Fuck the Police” during the march.

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To the left of PJ’s Grill & Groceries was a memorial to Akiel. It was behind this store where he became another victim. There were red and black balloons, a poster sized picture of Akiel, and candles. We each took turns paying our respects and laying down a candle. My close friend cried. The people around us were somber, each making their way. We were surrounded by families, mothers, daughters, aunts, uncles, grandparents. Many were directly affected, they were his friends, his family, his people, and they wanted justice.

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After speakers died off, the mulling crowds organized to begin the march towards the Bible Way Temple where a community meeting would be held. The chants began, “Black Lives Matter”, “No Justice, No Peace”, and my personal favorite from the Black Lives Matter Youth Assembly, “Wake up, Wake up, We want Freedom, Freedom, All these racist ass cops, we don’t need ‘em, need ‘em”. The energy was building and we were off. The chanting continued, the signs came out. Many wanted to truly shut it down. They wanted a confrontation. They would not get it.

As the protest arrived at its destination, Apostle Darnell Dixon Sr. of the Bible Way Temple stood on the stoop and told the people to be “constructive” and be “focused on Raleigh”. He said those willing to enter into a dialogue could come in. You could feel the energy being sucked directly out of this righteous manifestation. Yet, the grumbling activists were not the community, and this is how the community deliberated. At least the leadership, at least the elders. Important questions are raised by this event, especially for activists who may want to play savior rather than create solidarity.

A young black woman outside the Church said that this was a battlefield. She said that they shouldn’t go inside. She wanted to go to the Court House. She wanted to march and fight back, to resist. She called to take this to the bougie, white neighborhoods where they get peace in this racist society. She wanted to actualize the large red banner reading, “For a World Without Cops”. Alas, on this night, the night Akiel was murdered, that utopia would not be. We should not quickly dismiss it, because it is the future we strive for. Resistance is what is called for.

Rolanda Byrd was asked by reporters what she would do, if she would ask for calm. Her response is apt for a conclusion:

“I can’t even say that. I can’t even say calm, because how can we keep calm in every circumstance when they can calmly pull their triggers on our sons. That’s my son. Why should we have to stay calm at all times? Why should we show our calm when they’re not showing theirs? Why wasn’t their taser pulled out to taser him while he was jumpin’ over that fence? What happened to bean bag guns? They use to those that to stop a criminal. They don’t do that anymore. Now there’s just bullets, all bullets. Why? 24 years old. He was jumpin’ a fence. He wasn’t running towards anyone. He wasn’t threatening anyone. Because you saw his record on your computer.”

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Andrew Smolski is a writer and sociologist.

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