Even with former North Charleston, S.C., Police Officer Michael Slager pleading guilty in his federal civil rights trial for Walter Scott’s death, the unarmed black motorist who was gunned down in cold blood still cannot rest peacefully, it would seem.
The Post and Courier reports that police sympathizers have paid to have a “Blue Lives Matter” billboard put up more than a mile from the site where Slager killed Scott by shooting him in the back.
Community members are upset by the sign and say that the message mocks the Black Lives Matter movement, which has put the spotlight on controversial uses of force by police, including the April 2015 shooting of Scott.
On May 2, Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights, and according to the Post and Courier, the sign was installed Friday.
“It’s an insult to the whole Black Lives Matter movement,” resident Devonte Holmes said while waiting at a bus stop near the billboard. “And they did it on Remount Road, where the police shot that man. That’s disrespectful.”
From the Post and Courier:
The person behind the message, Scott Garland of West Ashley, has hoisted a cardboard sign emblazoned with the same words outside the courthouses where Slager has appeared. He attended Slager’s federal plea hearing last week.
Garland would not say Monday whether the sign’s placement was purposeful. About $500 was donated to the cause on GoFundMe.com, a fundraising effort that started two weeks ago.
Scott Garland told the Post and Courier: “It’s nothing negative against anybody. It was intended as a show of support to the men and women in blue.”
Local activist Thomas Dixon disagrees and told the Post and Courier that the sign and its message detracts from the healthy scrutiny of police-involved shootings more than it bolsters support for law enforcement.
“There is no dispute that police officers’ lives matter,” he said. “But this just drives another wedge between law enforcement and the community.”
On the other side of the issue, John Blackmon, president of the Tri-County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, applauded Garland’s display.
“You have men and women who put on the badge and do their best every day to help the community,” Blackmon said. “Now you have a citizen stepping up and saying, ‘Thank you.’ There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Read more at the Post and Courier.