[News] Black Woman Shot Dead By Police: Where Is National Outcry?

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jan 13 12:42:36 EST 2015

  Black Woman Shot Dead By Police: Where Is National Outcry?

Aura Rosser's death has gone nearly unnoticed. Do male black lives 
matter more than female?
/By/ /Terrell Jermaine Starr 
<http://www.alternet.org/authors/terrell-jermaine-starr-0>/ / AlterNet 
/January 12, 2015 /

The day before Aura Rosser was shot and killed by Officer David Reid of 
the Ann Arbor Police Department in November, she was on the phone making 
plans for the holidays with her sister, Shae Ward. They were considering 
cruise destinations far from the frigid Michigan weather that was bound 
to arrive in December: Florida Keys, the Bahamas, anywhere south. They 
communicated throughout the day on social media, but that phone call was 
the last time Ward heard Rosser’s voice.

The next day, Officer Reid and his partner, Mark Raab, responded to a 
domestic disturbance call around 11:45pm at the home of Aura Rosser, 40, 
and her boyfriend, Victor Stephens, 54, in Ann Arbor, home of the 
University of Michigan and a liberal bastion about an hour from Detroit.

What happened after the officers arrived is unclear. Stephens has said 
he and Rosser were in a heated argument when he made the call, according 
to local reports 
He says he called the cops to escort Rosser out of his home. When 
officers arrived, they claim Rosser "confronted 
them with a knife. Officer Reid shot Rosser, killing her. Michigan State 
<http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/11/ann_arbor_police_shooting_name.html> say 
Rosser was shot once but declined to say where. Stephens said she was 
shot twice; once in the head and once in the chest. "Why would you kill 
her?" Stephens said to local news outlet MLive a day after the shooting. 
"It was a woman with a knife. It doesn't make any sense."

It was the first police shooting in Ann Arbor since the ‘80s, police 
officials say. But amidst national outcry about the police killings of 
Eric Garner and Michael Brown, it barely registered a blip. Ann Arbor 
police have gone on record to defend the officers’ actions, but many 
residents are suspicious of the cops’ version of events. On December 14, 
more than 200 
<http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/12/ann_arbor_protesters_call_for.html#incart_story_package> protesters 
marched down Fifth Avenue in downtown Ann Arbor to protest the slow pace 
of the investigation into the shooting. Many were holding signs reading, 
“Black Lives Matter” and “White silence = white consent.”

The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on leave pending 
the investigation, which is slated to release its findings this 
week. Aura Rosser has been dead two months and apart from a few 
Huffington Post pieces, no national outlets have covered her shooting.

There are no reliable numbers of how many black women and girls are 
killed by police, but none of their deaths have sparked collective 
national outcry. It is not that people don’t care about them. Local 
activists took to the streets of Chicago to protest the killing of 
unarmed Rekia Boyd. Detroiters demanded justice for 7-year-old Aiyana 
Jones after she died from a gunshot fired during a botched Special 
Response team operation at the home she was sleeping in at the time. But 
not a single national protest followed.

Shirley Beckley, who was born and raised in Ann Arbor, helped to 
organize the December march and is working with other activists in the 
city to raise money for Rosser’s three children. “I think it’s important 
that [Rosser's story] go national because all of these killings of these 
men,” Beckley told AlterNet, “and now we have had a killing of this 
black woman.“

Where’s the outrage? It is almost as if the collective consciousness 
figured that their lives weren’t important enough to cover.

Kirsten West Savali explains in Dame Magazine 
<http://www.damemagazine.com/2014/08/18/black-women-are-killed-police-too> that, 
too often, black /people /become black/ men /by default. She quoted 
Treva B. Lindsey, an assistant professor of women’s studies at Ohio 
State University, who said that such a gender-exclusive narrative tends 
to dominate conversations of violence against black people.

"Both historically and contemporarily, when many people working towards 
racial justice around the issue of racial violence, the presumptive 
victim is a black male," Lindsey told Dame. "From lynching to police 
brutality, the presumed victim is a black male. Therefore, black women 
and girls are viewed as exceptional victims as opposed to perpetual 
victims of anti-black racial violence. Our narratives around racial 
violence, unfortunately, have yet to evolve into ones that are gender 
inclusive. Black victim = black male.”

There seems to be a protective guard over the dignity of black men that 
is never afforded to black women like Rosser. The New York Times wrote a 
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/13/us/if-they-gunned-me-down-protest-on-twitter.html?_r=0> highlighting #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. 
The viral hashtag was a response to media outlets using photos of 
Michael Brown posing in positions that suggest he was a criminal. Those 
same outlets ended up switching the photos in response. While the 
hashtag was an important act of social media activism, black women 
killed by cops rarely, if ever, receive the same treatment.

There was no reaction hashtag for Rosser when a local report 
<http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/11/ann_arbor_police_shooting_name.html> detailed 
her drug history and petty criminal record. An MLive report states 
<http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/11/house_where_ann_arbor_police_s.html#incart_story_package> that 
cops were called to the home several times for “domestic disturbances” 
involving Rosser and Stephens. The article cited reports that “indicate 
crack cocaine was being smoked in the house.” Notably, five other people 
were said to be in the house when Rosser was shot, and none has spoken 
publicly. After making initial statements to the press, boyfriend 
Stephens has reportedly retained a lawyer and stopped talking to the press.

But Shae Ward, the sister who was planning a vacation with Rosser the 
night before she was killed, wants to talk about Rosser, in part to 
counter the impression left by articles Ward feels dragged her sister's 
name through the mud. She admits her sister had issues with drug abuse, 
but fears publishing those details will strip Rosser of her humanity and 
suggest her death was justified.

“I didn’t think her past mistakes should have been relevant,” she said. 
“What’s relevant is why this officer used this kind of force and what 
happened. I want to know more about the actual facts.”

There are many unanswered questions about those facts. How close was 
Rosser to the officers when she supposedly confronted them with a knife? 
How quickly did they resort to shooting her? Ward also questions the 
story of Rosser wielding a knife in the face of armed police officers. 
Rosser was not a violent person, Ward says, and if she had a knife in 
her hands, Ward thought it likely she might have been cooking, something 
she did in times of stress. "I would love to hear that officer say what 
he was smelling in the kitchen,” she said.

Ward and Rosser are not blood relatives. According to Ward, they met in 
foster care at St. Vincent Catholic Charities Home during the late 
1980s. Ward was born and raised in Flint, Mich., and Rosser was the big 
city girl from Detroit. They considered themselves sisters ever since 
their days at St. Vincent.

There was a funeral for Rosser on November 24 at Greater Grace Temple 
City of David, in Detroit, which was organized by her blood relatives. 
Rosser’s friends held a separate memorial on November 29 at Palmer Park.

“She loved that park in the ‘90s,” Ward said. “She loved the connection 
to the earth, the aura around that area and the energy of the people who 
were there.”

When Rosser wasn’t in the park, she was in the kitchen. Ward remembers 
one of Rosser’s best dishes was pot roast.

“She didn’t like plantation food,” Ward said, laughing about Rosser’s 
lectures on unhealthy African-American dishes with roots connected to 
slavery. “Don’t have that stuff in her kitchen: Chitterlings, neckbones, 
ham hocks, pig’s feet. She’d say, ‘We have been freed from that, so we 
didn’t have to go back to eating that and we should have never been 
eating it in the first place.”

That brief burst of laughter was one of the few times Ward broke her 
mournful tone during our interview. “I have to get through the day with 
just my set of eyes and not hers,” she said. “That’s been my challenge 
since her murder. The fact that I am alone and I’ve always had her. That 
is what I would like Officer Reid to understand. She was my community. 
She was my world.”

Three weeks before Rosser’s death, activist Shirley Beckley said she 
attended a meeting called Lessons From Ferguson 
<https://www.facebook.com/events/1603482063212461/> at the Church of the 
Good Shepherd, United Church of Christ where she said police officials, 
including the police chief, vowed not to behave in the same manner as 
law enforcement in Ferguson, Mo., where 18-year-old Michael Brown was 
shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson.

“What they were saying is that we would handle things differently here 
in Ann Arbor if we had a Ferguson here," Beckley says. “But they didn’t.”

Ann Arbor police declined to speak about the case when AlterNet asked 
about the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation by Michigan State 
Police. AlterNet left a message with the Michigan State Police but they 
have yet to respond.

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