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Reflecting on: Alton Sterling, Louisiana Legislation, and the Ongoing Struggle for Safety

By July 5, 2024Uncategorized4 min read

A few days ago, I received a phone call from “Aunt Veda”, who is Alton Sterling’s aunt. I’ve come to know her deeply through our shared experiences. Alton Sterling’s tragic death on July 5, 2016, when he was killed by police, marked a pivotal moment not just for his family, but for many others who witnessed the event’s aftermath.

I met Veda during the protests that followed Alton Sterling’s death and have had the honor of capturing moments with her over the past eight years. She often says, “You know, you are the only one I allow to photograph me.” Through my lens, I’ve documented not just her story but also the stories of other families impacted by unchecked police violence. It’s important to clarify that I hold no animosity towards the police, but the loss of life due to unnecessary violence deeply affects me. After all, every life is irreplaceable.

The events of 2016 represented a significant turning point for many, including myself. The anger and frustration in Baton Rouge, LA, were real, and the protests that erupted across the nation highlighted a broader issue of racial injustice. The death of Alton Sterling became a catalyst for a movement demanding change and accountability.

Fast forward to 2024, and I find myself reflecting on whether any meaningful progress has been made. During the 2024 Regular Legislative Session in Louisiana, a bill was passed allowing citizens to carry concealed firearms in public without a permit. This law permits 18-year-olds to carry guns legally, a development that has left me uneasy. Given the frequent justification of violence by claiming “The suspect had a gun,” this new legislation raises concerns about potential escalation.

As someone in my 40s who has never touched a gun, I’ve never felt the need for one or experienced the fear that might drive someone to seek protection through firearms. Perhaps I’m idealistic, imagining a world where people resolve conflicts without resorting to violence.

A story from a white coworker in Austin, Texas, serves as a troubling reminder of underlying biases. He recounted being robbed in New Orleans’ French Quarter. When approached by a Black man, he instinctively threw his money on the ground, fearing a robbery, despite the man not displaying a weapon. His assumption, based on the man’s race, reflects the deeply ingrained prejudices that can skew perceptions and reactions.

This anecdote highlights the dangers of concealed carry laws, particularly without permits. Such laws could exacerbate existing fears, potentially leading to tragic outcomes. I hope that such scenarios remain rare, as the alternative—someone taking another’s life out of fear—would be devastating.

Consider the tragic case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Black child who was shot by a police officer while playing with a toy gun. The officer’s fear led to a fatal outcome. This case underscores the risks of allowing biases and fear to dictate actions. The new law allowing more people to carry weapons could open Pandora’s box, amplifying existing fears and leading to further violence, especially against marginalized communities.

While this legislation may be intended to empower citizens, it also risks perpetuating cycles of fear and violence. As we navigate these changes, it is crucial to prioritize understanding and peaceful coexistence over fear and prejudice. Only by fostering such an environment can we hope to achieve true safety for all.

Eight years ago, our city was filled with hope for positive change. Today, as we reflect on the past and look to the future, it’s clear that while some things have changed, the struggle for justice and safety continues. Let us remember Alton Sterling and remain vigilant in our pursuit of a world where every life is valued and protected.

Mr Don M Green

Author Mr Don M Green

Award Winning photographer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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