Racial tensions and police brutality have dominated headlines this week, following the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Both men were African-American and killed by police officers. Their deaths have reinvigorated the efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has returned to the streets of many cities to protest violence against the African-American community.
37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot several times by police outside of a Louisiana convenience store. Graphic video of Sterling's death immediately surfaced online, showing Sterling on the ground, pinned by police officers. The camera pans away, gunshots are heard, and when the camera returns Sterling has a large blood stain on his chest. The police officers believed Sterling was armed - they were responding to a 911 report of a man with a gun. Sterling sold CDs and DVDs outside of the store where he was shot.
Only one day later, Philando Castile's fiancé livestreamed Castile's death after he was shot four times by a Minnesota police officer. Castile was pulled over for a broken taillight, with his fiancé and her four-year-old daughter in the backseat. According to his fiancé, Diamond Reynolds, Castile let the officer know that he had a concealed weapons permit and had a firearm. As Castile reached for his wallet to retrieve his license and registration, the officer shot him four times. In Reynolds' video, Castile looks up as Reynolds pleads with the officers until she is ordered out of the car. Castile died a week and a half before his 33rd birthday.
Sterling and Castile's deaths have sparked outrage across the nation. All officers involved have been placed under administrative leave, and President Obama commented on the two deaths, demanding reactions of outrage to police brutality because of its racially-charged history. A protest rally in Dallas ended with the death of five police officers, the deadliest day for law enforcement since September 11th. 1000 people gathered to protest in San Francisco, and rappers Snoop Dogg and the Game organized a peaceful march to police headquarters in Los Angeles, where they met with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck.
Police departments across the country have changed their methods in responding to protests following the violence in Ferguson, Missouri after the death of Michael Brown at the hands of former police officer Darren Wilson. Ferguson police reactions were scrutinized and many condemned the department's tendency to escalate tensions by using tear gas and bringing in military-grade riot gear. Now, p rotest organizers work with city officials to plan demonstration routes, leaders preach peaceful protest, and law enforcement are much more cautious in interactions.