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Statement on the Tragic Death of Alton Sterling

We stand in solidarity with the Sterling Family and the community of Baton Rouge as again the country is faced with fatal police violence against a community of color. In SEIU BATON ROUGE – SEIU members and families are deeply saddened by the shooting death of Alton Sterling. We see 100+ men in our Union who look exactly like Alton Sterling. They are blue-collar men who go to work every day and sometimes have to work a second job or like Mr. Sterling may scrape together enough money in small increments by selling CD’s on the side just to make ends meet.

There is no justifiable explanation for the death of Alton Sterling and to try to create one ignores the reality that surrounds us. The reality that Louisiana has the third highest unemployment rate in the country, with Black women, men and children being disproportionately impacted. Louisiana incarcerates more people than anywhere else in the world, making it the world’s largest prison capitol. While Black people struggle to make a living and survive in a state with poor social and health outcomes, they have to avoid getting shot by police, and betrayed by public servants who are supposed to protect them, their families and their communities.

As President of SEIU 21 LA, I have seen the struggles of working families in North Baton Rouge. They have been neglected and left behind. Particularly the communities of color have been slighted and face, systemic racism, political and economic disenfranchisement and environmental devastation which leads to some of the worse health outcomes in the country.

This story is not new and continues to be played out on our TV screens providing us with a front row view of the injustices in communities across America that mirror the community in Baton Rouge where we lost Mr. Sterling. These are the communities that have been neglected and left behind by city leaders who vowed to invoke the “inclusiveness” of Baton Rouge. Communities of color have seen too many times where an investigation does not lead to real change because city leaders are too busy citing self-serving rhetoric rather than speaking with a voice that will unify us all.

We will no longer accept this type of duplicity to continue. We will hold those who have vowed to “Protect and Serve” accountable. We will no longer go on with our daily lives when in America 559 individuals has been killed by police this year. In order for this to stop, we must make it Stop!
SEIU stands with communities demanding a thorough investigation into the incident by the Department of Justice. We further demand that this investigation leads to real and continued accountability of law enforcement that ensures those most marginalized are not harmed by state based violence. Far behind us are the days where we sit idly and allow the Baton Rouge Police Department that has a long history of police brutality and misconduct, to go on without demanding that those involved receive sanctions for their transgressions.

This is why SEIU is demanding that Mayor Kip Holden take action now by having the Justice Department convene and monitor an independent review board in order to:

  • Examine the practices of the Baton Rouge Police Department’s discriminatory policies and procedures,
  • Provide recommendations and ensure those recommendations are implemented.
  • If the findings discover misconduct — We are calling on Mayor Holden to fire Chief Carl Dabadie.

The people of Baton Rouge will not be silent, Baton Rouge need healing and deserve “real leadership” at this critical moment; and we pray that they will get it!

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