Wednesday 5 August, 2020

Botham Jean's mother on US protests: Frustrated voices must be heard

Botham Jean's mother, Allison Jean, center, escorted by civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, right,, is hugged by family members outside the courtroom after fired Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Dallas. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Botham Jean's mother, Allison Jean, center, escorted by civil rights attorney Lee Merritt, right,, is hugged by family members outside the courtroom after fired Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murder, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, in Dallas. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

“Every time another black man, another black person is killed in America it brings me right back to September 6 (2018) and it tears me apart.”

Allison Jean, on the killing of George Floyd.

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In 2018 her son, 26-year-old Accountant Botham Jean was fatally shot by an off-duty Dallas police officer while in his apartment.

The grieving mother said the passage of time has done little to assuage her feelings of loss and bewilderment.

She said nothing could fill the void left since her son’s untimely death.

She told Loop: “What happened with George Floyd in the United States, especially with the brutality of the police officer who was on his neck, highlights to me what my son suffered at the hands of Amber Guyger. Because Amber Guyger was very hasty in just shooting him without asking any questions, without finding out whether she was in the wrong apartment or not, so I think it is a cultural issue as it relates to police officers in the United States, they are very hasty when they come into confrontation with black people. So yes, it has caused what happened to Botham to resurface. I see it as very much related to what happened to Botham and what has happened to countless other black men and women in America.”

George Floyd died on May 25 after he was arrested outside a shop in Minneapolis.

Footage of the arrest shows a white police officer kneeling on his neck while he was handcuffed and pinned to the floor.

His death has since sparked widespread unrest throughout the United States.

Allison Jean said Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police underscores the need for a shift in the culture of police officers in the United States.

Still struggling to come to terms with her son's murder, she said the systemic racism, police brutality and attacks against people of colour must be addressed.

“Just two weeks earlier we were fighting the cause of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor who were killed in unfortunate circumstances. In the case of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia by white persons who believed that he did not deserve to be jogging in a particular neighbourhood. And in Breonna Taylor’s case, by police who were called in, similar to the incident of Atatiana Jefferson in Forth Worth, Texas. So the protests that we see around the United States I believe they are warranted so that the voices of frustrated people can be heard. They need to march, they need to protest, and they need to demonstrate their disgust for the US system. Following the death of my son Botham Jean, there were protests as well but apparently, these protests went on deaf ears so we’re seeing a stronger force coming out in the United States over George Floyd’s strangulation by a wicked police officer.”

She said she lives with the pain of her son’s death every day and that pain is magnified every time a person of colour is brutalised or killed at the hands of police.

During an interview with Loop she said she's only been able to go on because of her unwavering faith in God and the constant support of family and friends who make her cross that much easier to bear.

“I thank God that I trust in him! I believe in God, I continue to pray, I continue to just depend on him and with the help of friends and family I have been able to manage what is going on. However, every time another black man, another black person is killed in America it brings me right back to September 6 (2018) it tears me apart. This weekend was particularly difficult when I saw on CNN that there was a documentary of some of the young men and women who were killed at the hands of police and Botham was featured in that documentary. So it brings the pain back, I don’t know whether I will ever be the same again having lost my son.”

While standing in support of protesters in the US, Jean also called for what she described as much-needed improvements to the judicial system in her native St Lucia.

Drawing reference to two allegedly police-involved shootings, she said better must be done.

“I am still disturbed that we have cases like Kimberly Williams de Leon and that of Arnold Joseph and we have not received any results of any investigations, any outcome of the investigation absolutely no accountability for their deaths. This is unacceptable so while as St Lucians we are watching the United States and in my case, I support what is happening in the United States I have to ask what are we doing in St Lucia to show our dissatisfaction with the justice system over what is happening to our own people.”

On October 29, 2018, Kimberly was shot dead at her Morne Fortune home.

Her husband who is a member of the St Lucia police force was considered a person of interest but was subsequently cleared. No arrests have been made.

Arnold Joseph was killed after police opened fire on a vehicle he was in. According to reports the officers were in pursuit of the vehicle when it crashed. They opened fire claiming they were fired at first. The 17-year-old was the only fatality.

Allison Jean said: “What are we doing about it? I believe the US and what is happening should be used as a lesson for us in St Lucia, for officials in St Lucia, for police, for the judicial system, the government and for every St Lucian to see that when people are frustrated, disgusted and unsatisfied they can change the way in which they demand accountability. So I’m calling on everyone to come out and make St Lucia a better place.”

She believes that changes are desperately needed within the police force in St Lucia and in the United States.

 

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