In a ceremony described as “beautiful, [and] spirit filled,” hundreds came together on Saturday for the funeral of Walter Scott, the unarmed South Carolina man who was shot in the back by a police officer last week, the confrontation captured on video for all the world to see.
Yet, as “beautiful” as the ceremony was, the pastor who presided over Scott’s funeral made it plain that racism and hatred was at the heart of this murder: “This hate could not be because this person knew Walter. The hate was because Walter was African-American,” the minister said. “No one just empties a clip into a man’s back.”
The pastor at WORD Ministries Christian Center, where Mr. Scott worshiped, minced no words, telling the standing-room-only crowd that Mr. Scott had died because he was black. The pastor, the Rev. George D. Hamilton, stressed that most law enforcement officers serve honorably, but he urged the members of South Carolina’s congressional delegation who attended the funeral to take up the issue of police killings in Washington so that African-Americans “don’t have to be scared every time they get pulled over.”
“There is no doubt in my mind,” Mr. Hamilton said. “I feel Walter’s death was motivated by racial prejudice.”
“We will not indict the entire law enforcement community for the act of an individual racist,” Mr. Hamilton said. “Honest cops live to serve with distinction. We thank God for them. This particular cop was a racist.”
Scott, 50, died on April 4 after Michael Slager, a North Charleston police officer, pulled him over because of a broken taillight. Dashcam video shows Scott leaving his car and running away (Scott’s family surmised he ran because he did not want to go to jail for delinquent child support payments). Moments later, the scene picks up on another video taken by a bystander, Feidin Santana. It shows Slager firing eight times at the running man, and Scott collapsing and dying after being shot in the back.
Slager, 33, a five year veteran of the North Charlston Police Force, is seen dropping something by Scott’s body, and many believe it was a Taser gun, which Slager told investigators Scott tried to wrestle from him during a supposed confrontation in which he feared for his life.
After Santana’s video was released on Tuesday, Slager was arrested and charged with murder, and he was summarily fired.
The Times reports that several prominent politicians attended Scott’s funeral yesterday including Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, who said he was not surprised by the tone of the Reverend’s remarks. “This is an issue that has caused so much pain and grief,” Clyburn said, according to the Times. “I think it would be hypocritical of him not to speak to it head-on.”
Two Republican legislators attended the homegoing service as well: Senator Tim Scott and Representative Mark Sanford, the former governor. Sanford was quoted as calling the funeral a “beautiful, spirit-filled service,” and said Congress would address the issues raised by the shooting, reports The Times.
In related news, two local newspapers had very different takes on the funeral service as evidenced by their Sunday headlines.
The Post & Courier’s headline reads, “Saying Goodbye To a Beloved Son,” while The State, which had the funeral coverage below the fold, focused only the fiery sermon with the headline: “‘Overt Racism’ Seen In Slaying By Police.”
— Kyle Hightower (@khightower) April 12, 2015
I’ll just put this out there: The press is another institution that needs serious reform and diversity in its ranks – right along with police departments.
Rest in peace, Mr. Scott.
SOURCE: The New York Times