On May 2, about 50 people marched through the streets of Frisco, Texas, part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. They demanded the arrest of eight officers for the killing of Marvin Scott III, who died in police custody. The protest took place days after the Collin County medical examiner ruled Scott’s death a homicide.
Protesters took the struggle to the streets of Frisco, as well as to busy shopping centers, demanding the arrest of the officers responsible for Scott’s death, dubbed the “Collin County 8.”
A horrifying death for a misdemeanor ‘offense’
Marvin Scott III was talking quietly to himself in the Allen Premium Outlets shopping center on March 14 when shopping center security called the police. Police arrested him for less than two ounces of cannabis, which the family’s attorney said he used to treat his schizophrenia. While Scott had not had an episode in over a year, his family believes that the stress of the arrest triggered a relapse.
Police took him to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where, instead of transferring him to a mental health facility for treatment, a doctor put him back into the officers’ custody. Scott was then taken to the Collin County Jail. There his family says six jailers tortured him as they strapped him to a restraint bed, pepper-sprayed him, and covered his face with a spit hood. He died just a few hours after entering the jail.
Scott’s sister LaChay Batts, who led the protest, said she was “trying to vocally express what happened to [her] brother.” She wants Collin County to hold the officers accountable by indicting, arresting, and convicting them of Scott’s murder.
The family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, blamed a “combination of failures” from all parties involved in this obscene arrest and killing. “They saw him exhibiting open signs of distress. Instead of immediately giving him to a facility that could treat him, they decided to restrain him in a way that was brutal and violent and resulted in his death. The men who participated in the physical acts that resulted in his death need to be held criminally accountable under the homicide statutes for Collin County.”
‘They’re leaving out pieces’: getting info from police an uphill battle
The struggle to charge cops in Marvin Scott III’s death — or even find out the basic details of his last hours — has been an uphill battle.
“We’re getting the story in increments. They’re leaving out pieces. There’s always more to find out, you know?” said Batts. “We didn’t know they [used] a spit hood until they had a press release.”
The Collin County Sheriff’s Office has released information only under immense pressure. They refused to release the names of the officers involved — this information only came out after the Dallas Morning News obtained the names through public information requests. After Scott’s death, the sheriff’s office initially said it would be three months before the family could see any video of his interactions with police and jailers. But after a month of intense pressure and nightly protesting from Scott’s family and others, they finally allowed the family to view the horrific five-hour footage.
All the police involved in Scott’s death were initially placed on administrative leave. Since then, one resigned, and seven others were fired on April 1. However, six of the officers involved have already filed appeals, and one of them has already been reinstated at the jail. Some community members fear they will be re-hired by other departments. No cop has yet been charged with the crime, even though it was caught on video.
Protester Matthew Bennett said: “It shouldn’t take a month for a family to see how their loved one, how their son, brother, uncle, grandson was taken out of this world. There shouldn’t be a hold on a video that details how someone left this earth. There shouldn’t be protection of officers [for crimes they commit].”
Protester Jack Deshong called the police system “unreformable.” “It dehumanizes everybody,” he said. “[The police] don’t treat other people like people. It’s just how the system trains these people, and if it was just a few bad apples, we wouldn’t have a new story coming out every day of a new shooting or a new ‘accidental’ death.”
Justice for Marvin Scott III! Arrest the Collin County 8!
LaChay remarked, “The people, we have power to stand as a community, to push them and put pressure behind the department so we can push for those arrests.”
During the march, many cars honked in support, and onlookers cheered, clapped, and recorded videos as marchers passed. Backed with drumbeats, protesters chanted, “Say his name! Marvin Scott III!”, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” and “No good cops in a racist system!” At one point, protesters began shouting aloud and echoing all the names of those lost to racist state violence. Chanters also made very specific demands: “Arrest who? The Collin County 8! When? Now!”
As the march was brought to a close, protesters were encouraged to consider mental health, how it affected Scott, and alternatives to the racist system of policing that kills so many people suffering from mental health crises.
It took months of protests and millions of working-class people in the street to secure the conviction of Derek Chauvin, but thousands of police committing acts of terror have still gone unpunished. Police killings are not the result of a “few bad apples,” but of a whole spoiled bunch. Protest movements are continuing the work of the summer of 2020 by mobilizing the people to secure new victories. Justice for Marvin Scott III! Arrest the Collin County 8!