Ma’Khia Bryant’s case shows the fight for justice is far from over
Convicting one cop that was a killer does nothing in the grand scheme of a whole system built to kill and imprison people of color.
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As the long-awaited quest for justice in one police shooting was resolving itself in Minneapolis on Tuesday, April 20, another took place just minutes before the verdict was announced in the trial of former cop Derek Chauvin.
In Columbus, Ohio, a police officer fatally shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant outside of her home. Many of the details of the event remain ambiguous, even after the local police department quickly released an edited officer cam video of the chaotic incident that transpired in the driveway of a suburban street.
Paula Bryant tells me her 16 year-old daughter Ma’Khia Bryant was an honor roll student and a sweet child. Ma’Khia was shot and killed by a @ColumbusPolice on Legion Lane at 4:30p today. pic.twitter.com/0FfbQVEgSD— Lacey Crisp (@LaceyCrisp) April 21, 2021
Hazel Bryant, Ma’Khia’s aunt, told the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau that her niece allegedly called officers around 4:30 p.m., after a group of “older kids” threatened her with assault. She did not elaborate on the nature of the threat.
The Columbus Police Department, however, was unable to give a definitive answer on whether Bryant was the one who called for assistance.
Video footage shows an officer leaving his car and approaching the group, asking what was going on, as a physical fight between Bryant and the older kids flared up.
In the video, it appears that Bryant, in self defense, pushed a person who fell to the ground. She then appeared to pull out a knife, swinging it at a girl who was sitting on the hood of a car.
It was at this moment that the officer fired his weapon at least four times, striking Bryant, who died a short time later. After the shots were fired, bystanders in the background can be heard shouting “she’s just a kid!”
Seemingly in response, an officer is heard saying “she had a knife, she just ran at her.”
A video taken by a bystander shows officers kneeling over Bryant, administering CPR.
At the time of the shooting, Bryant was in foster care and appeared to have been outside of her current foster home. Hazel told the Dispatch that her niece had found herself involved in a tense altercation with someone else at the home.
It’s still unclear what led up to the moment officers arrived at the scene. It’s also uncertain whose knife it was that was seen in the footage, and who brought it onto the scene.
When the video is slowed down, Bryant can be seen holding the knife shortly before being shot. Her aunt explained that she did drop the knife just before she was hit.
After the landmark racial justice verdict was reached in Minneapolis, which resulted in the conviction of Derek Chauvin on all three charges facing him, many in the Black community felt that they could finally take a breath, but oppression doesn’t rest.
Columbus Ohio Police shot a Black teen girl....who called them for help.— Atima Omara (@atima_omara) April 20, 2021
This is why the Chauvin verdict is accountability, NOT justice. This is just neverending. #MakiyahBryant
Unfortunately for the system, the community does not rest either. A crowd gathered Tuesday night at the scene on Legion Lane, which police had partially blocked off to traffic. Others assembled at the city’s police headquarters.
Hundreds of protesters pushed past police barriers outside the headquarters, approaching officers while city officials were inside viewing the bodycam footage. Many were chanting the phrase “Say her name,” while others called attention to Bryant’s age, yelling “she was just a kid.”
The “Say Her Name” chant is significant in that it is a campaign born out of the need to raise awareness of the number of women and girls that are killed by law enforcement officers.
Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality” in the 1980s, demonstrated the urgency for the campaign’s existence when she speaks at public meetings.
In front of a crowd, Crenshaw reads off names of unarmed Black men and boys whose deaths ignited the Black Lives Matter movement, such as Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and Tamir Rice. She asks the audience to stand up until they hear an unfamiliar name.
“Then I say the names of Natasha McKenna, Tanisha Anderson, Michelle Cusseaux, Aura Rosser, Maya Hall. By the time I get to the third name, almost everyone has sat down. By the fifth, the only people standing are those working on our campaign,” Crenshaw explained.
As the demonstrations were unfolding, officers on bicycles pushed back against protesters, threatening to deploy pepper spray on the crowd. But the event, just like this movement, persisted.
Protesters carrying Black Lives Matter posters, megaphones and a loudspeaker joined the original crowd on Legion Lane, gathering behind crime scene tape about a half-block away from where the shooting took place.
A Columbus police officer shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a Black 16-year-old-girl just minutes after the Chauvin verdict was announced. She was calling the police for help.— Breaking The Chains (@breakchainsmag) April 21, 2021
Demonstrators gathered immediately. Where there’s people, there’s power & the people are not letting up pic.twitter.com/2USvu0erIB
Speaking through a megaphone, community member K.C Taynor mentioned the Chauvin verdict, saying “we don’t get to celebrate nothing. In the end, you know what, you can’t be Black.”
Kiar Yakita, founder of the Black Liberation Movement, expressed no shock when she found out that another police shooting had occurred.
“Why did they kill this baby?” she asked aloud.
This is Kiara Yakita. She is the founder of the Black Liberation Movement in Columbus.— Kalea Gunderson (@KaleaGunderson) April 21, 2021
She said shortly after learning of the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial today she learned of this officer-involved shooting. pic.twitter.com/krMkRGyajv
Hana Abdur-Rahim, with the Black Abolitionists Collective, confirmed this stoic response, describing that this is just another day in Black America.
“We are in a literal genocide. We are fighting for our lives,” said Abdur-Rahim said.
The teenager's mother, Paula Bryant, told a 10TV reporter that she had been a honor roll student and a "sweet child."
"She was a very loving, peaceful little girl," she said. "Ma'Khia had a motherly nature about her, she promoted peace and that's something that I want to always to be remembered."