On May 3, the Dept. of Justice announced in the late afternoon it will not charge the two white officers who executed Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old Black man, as he was tending to his video table outside of the Triple S Market on North Foster Drive. The news buzzed quickly through Baton Rouge and by 6:30p.m about 200 people gathered in the lot next to the scene of the crime.
Quinyetta McMillon, the mother of Sterling’s son, sent a message to the rally saying she “could not shed one more tear,” but thanking those who gathered. The family had not been notified of the decision prior to the release to the media.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom! It is our duty to win! We must love and protect one another!” lead one of the speakers with the crowd loudly echoing the calls. “We have nothing to lose but our chains!” exclaimed the crowd in even more determined and thundering voices.
Several speakers noted that the murder of Sterling is just one of the many acts of daily racism that the people of Baton Rouge face. Another speaker said: “The Bible says that faith without works is dead,” calling on those gathered to continue to organize.
Later in the evening protesters marched to Airline Highway near police headquarters and shut down the main boulevard. Three protesters were arrested during the shut down.
Although the federal charges will not move forward, the struggle for justice for Alton Sterling is focusing its attention on Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. Sterling’s family and community activists are calling on Landry to press charges against the two officers and the movement is gearing up to put pressure on the AG’s office.
Not far from the Triple S, maybe 30 minutes, is the site of the largest slave rebellion in U.S. history. In 1811, hundreds of slaves marched 25 miles burning down three plantations before the rebellion was crushed and many of the rebels executed publicly. The heads of the leaders were placed on poles to instill fear.
In the modern-day lynching of Alton Sterling, the people are continuing to fight — no matter the fear that the DOJ and others try to instill.
The Louisiana Creole proverb: “Bouki fait gombo, lepin mange li” could roughly be translated today as “The people run society, but only the rich benefit.” This is the sentiment among the people in Louisiana: this racist system must end.