Minnesota, Still Healing From Jamar Clark’s Death, Makes Room For Philando Castile
BuzzFeed News spoke to Clark’s family and the NAACP about how the community has organized around the two victims.
The day after Philando Castile was fatally shot by police during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, Cameron Clark’s 4-year-old son told him he no longer wanted to grow up.
Clark, whose 24-year-old cousin Jamar was shot and killed by Minnesota police on Nov. 15, 2015, told BuzzFeed News that his son said he was afraid "to be a big boy. I’m afraid the police are going to kill me."
“For him to watch the news and understand everything...all I could do was break down,” he said.
The 25-year-old from Minneapolis has seen the videos of both Castile and Alton Sterling, who was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge on July 5. He fixates on the final moments of their lives.
“They’re taking their last breath, their bodies are twitching, suffering for no reason,” he said. “It seems like a new trend. They’re doing it without cause.”
Clark, along with several family members and activists throughout Minnesota, is still reeling from the death of his cousin, but is now rallying behind another black man gunned down by police.
The circumstances of Castile's death differ from Clark’s.
Castile, a 32-year-old nutrition services supervisor at a magnet school, was pulled over at a traffic stop and was shot in the torso while reportedly reaching for his ID to show to the officer. Clark, who worked at Copeland Trucking and was known for his penchant for fishing and swimming, was tackled to the ground outside a party and shot in the head.
Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, filmed his death on Facebook Live, while Clark’s case was marred by conflicting eyewitness accounts and forensic evidence about whether he was handcuffed when police shot him in the head.
But despite the differences in their cases, the process of mourning and organizing has been the same.
Nekima Levy-Pounds, a civil rights attorney and president of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, told BuzzFeed News that activists responded quickly to news of Castile’s death.
Around 60 or 70 people gathered near Castile’s car the night of the shooting, she said. Another 75 to100 took part in demonstrations outside the governor’s mansion; 25 of them stayed overnight in the rain.
By 5:30 p.m. the next day, Levy-Pounds said, the crowd had swelled to more than 4,500 people. Clark was among them.
Clark, who at the time he spoke with BuzzFeed News had not yet been in communication with Castile’s family, said he wasn’t sure if he could offer solid words of encouragement.
“I would tell them that I feel their pain, I feel their mourning. But I can’t even say things will get better. There’s nothing new. It’s just a different trend,” he said.
Levy-Pounds talked about the two deaths in the community and how organizers are pulling double-duty to keep their names on people's tongues despite other recent atrocities.
"We’re continuing to invoke the name of Jamar Clark and that he didn’t receive justice. And yet, here again is another blow to the African American community," she said. "It speaks to what we’ve been saying all along about the need for systemic police reform.
“We also mourn the loss of the officers in Dallas, but at the end of the day, what happened there is not indicative of what is happening in the movement in general.
“The protests and demonstrations around the country have been largely peaceful and nonviolent, and focused on changing the culture of policing, and we can not deviate based on an anomalous situation that happened.”
Clark, meanwhile, is just trying to hold it together as he continues to fight for justice.
“It’s frustrating, having people ask, ‘Cameron, how are you doing?’ I’ve been lying and saying I’m OK, but I’m not. I don’t even feel like myself anymore,” he said. “I don’t want to be bothered. I just want to be free. This is not life at all. This is torture.”