By Catherine Powell
The Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia was bustling this week with protesters, some wearing masks and others handing out flyers urging Americans to protest the acquittal of former police officer Ray Tensing. Among those demonstrators were black Americans who spoke about the importance of race in their own lives – and in those of others.
After reading a news report about the trial, iCheakta Moseley was quick to point out that while racial bias sometimes plays a role in criminal trials, the racial makeup of the jury was not the primary reason Tensing was acquitted of murder and voluntary manslaughter in the death of Sam DuBose.
Moseley was in tears after seeing the news footage on Tuesday as he explained that he’d attended a poetry reading at City Hall on Monday night. The crowd was mostly white.
Moseley said that the jurors for the trial were neither black nor white, but “in between.”
He said he was disturbed by the verdict, adding, “Why should I be afraid of him, if it was my child who got shot?”
Jurors who saw DuBose’s car backing into Tensing, and then heard Tensing shout, “Don’t move!” before he fired seven times into the windshield as DuBose stood behind the driver’s seat, thought the plainclothes officer’s actions were justified, the jury’s foreman said last week.
After reading her statements on her Facebook page, Malika Burnett-Robertsons said she was thinking about taking out an ad on her billboard business to call attention to the notion that African Americans are criminalized.
“How do I change that? I have to start with myself. That’s why I’m taking it to the streets and running for office,” she said. “I’ve been fighting for so long and never felt like I had a say.”
Keith Oldham, a former defense attorney, said he thinks that if Black Lives Matter activists have the “fighting spirit” to get involved in a criminal case, they have the ability to “change the game,” bringing national attention to the situation.
David Copeland, a participant in Tuesday’s demonstration, said he was surprised that Tensing was acquitted of murder.
He said the racial disparity and the lack of public interest in the case “is a product of the complicity in the American criminal justice system.”
“It was wrong to put him on trial for what happened, and that’s a game changer,” Copeland said.
But, others questioned whether Black Lives Matter is “making waves” in an effort to bolster its own credibility.
Isabella Fisher, who attended the demonstration, said she was impressed by how peaceful it was.
“I’ve never seen any demonstrations that have been peaceful,” Fisher said. “I think that we can make a difference, and I think that the cameras and social media are actually being used by people to do that.
“The movement is trying to be here and have a voice, and I’m here and am listening to it.”