A PUBLIC APOLOGY
The anniversary month of the 2016 Alton Sterling shooting began with an apology from Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul. The police department and former officer Blane Salamoni ended a lengthy legal battle Aug. 1 over his termination following Sterling’s death, with the department allowing Salamoni to resign. Paul then issued a frank public statement apologizing for the department’s actions, saying it had ignored a history of aggression and unprofessional behavior by Salamoni and citing other officers who had raised concerns about his conduct. That statement quickly drew a negative reaction from the police union, which has supported Salamoni all along.
• “We’re sorry, Baton Rouge. We’re sorry because [Salamoni] should have never been hired. And while we obviously cannot change the past, it is clear that we must change the future. I sincerely apologize for the actions of the past, and the role that our profession has played in building barriers in communities of color in the city of Baton Rouge. We can’t allow an us-versus-them mentality to take root in the rank and file of this organization, and we cannot allow that division to fester in the neighborhoods that we patrol.” —Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul, in an Aug. 1 statement
• “I stand behind our officers, men and women who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect our citizens. However, our department no longer has room for individuals who can’t live up to its high standards.” —Mayor Sharon Weston Broome
• “We are both angered and saddened with the character assassination of Blane Salamoni, previous administrations, as well as past and present members of the Baton Rouge Police Department. Salamoni fully disclosed his past during his interview process, which resulted in a 7-0 unanimous decision to hire him. During [his] tenure as a solo officer, he never had a sustained complaint relative to force or conduct. … The members of the Baton Rouge Union of Police will continue to support Blaine Salamoni.” —Baton Rouge Police Union attorney Tommy Dewey, in an Aug. 2 statement
RESPONDING TO RACISM
In July, President Donald Trump issued a series of tweets saying that four congressional women of color “came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe”—though three of them were born in the United States. He added they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”
Politicians from both parties, foreign leaders, religious leaders and others derided the president’s remarks as racist and white nationalist. The top three candidates for Louisiana governor, up for election in the Oct. 12 primary, also weighed in.
• “There’s no question that the members of Congress that Donald Trump called out have absolutely said anti-American and anti-Semitic things. I’ll pay for their tickets out of this country if they just tell me where they’d rather be.” —Ralph Abraham, Republican
• “There is nothing racist about what President Donald Trump said. This is just another example of liberal media outrage and political correctness gone wrong. These are the same people who want to abolish ICE, take down the American flag and raise the Mexican flag, and allow sanctuary cities like New Orleans. Unlike John Bel Edwards, I stand with President Trump. And if these America-hating crazies in Washington don’t like it, they should crawl back under the rock they came from.” —Eddie Rispone, Republican
• “I believe the President’s remarks by tweet were out of bounds, and we ought to all aspire to do better. The president has said he didn’t intend for it to be a racist statement. But for the people who are listening and certainly the people who were targeted, you can compare that statement with statements that were made during the civil rights movement. Statements that were directed at people who sat at lunch counters that they weren’t supposed to sit at, or wanted to ride the bus wherever they wanted to sit, or wanted to register to vote. If we don’t change our rhetoric, it’s going to become impossible for the folks in Washington to govern effectively. And they haven’t been hitting on all cylinders to begin with. As long as I’m your governor, Louisiana isn’t going to become Washington.” — Gov. John Bel Edwards, Democrat
This article was originally published in the September 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.