I once had a friend who was making an extra credit film for his language arts class. For the film, he got a prop gun for one of the characters to use. It popped and kicked like a real gun, but it had an orange tip in the end to indicate that it was a toy. With a little ingenuity, my friend removed the orange tip and colored over it so it looked real for the film. Probably not the best idea to keep it in his glove compartment, but he did. One day while driving with his younger cousin, he was pulled over for swerving around a pothole. For some reason (more than likely because he was a Black driver in a White suburb of Philadelphia), backup was called. Nervous, he forgot about the prop gun in his glove compartment where he also kept his registration and insurance cards. When he opened it and the police saw the movie prop, all of the officers started screaming and drawing guns.
Thank God it ended at that.
Fast-forward to this Summer. John Crawford, a 22-year-old father of two, was holding a toy gun in a Beavercreek, Ohio Wal-Mart when he was gunned down by police. (Believe it or not, I’ve spent a lot of time checking out toy guns at Wal-Mart and haven’t seen anything that could be mistaken for a real one, not that you can carry around the store. Like my friend’s prop gun, the realistic looking ones have the orange tip to prevent confusion.)
Crawford’s death, and others at the hands of police and self-appointed vigilantes, have inspired one Philadelphia community to work to prevent TK TK TK
According to CBS Philly, Sean Williams was troubled when he discovered local children playing with soft pellet guns. The guns are black, plastic pistols with orange tips that are loaded from the bottom. The children purchased them from the 8 Brothers Deli in the Point Breeze section of the city. Like my friend, they maneuvered the orange tip off and, with a little paint, they had dead ringers for the real deal. Not only were the kids playing with the guns, they were also using the skin-piercing pellets to hurt each other and even rob people. The 40-year-old filmed kids playing with the toy pistols and the video went viral.
Then Williams contacted community activist, Anton Moore, who’d left left his position as a producer for various BET music programs to come home to Philly’s South Breeze neighborhood and develop his Unity In The Community organization. With fellow community activist, Nakia Carr, Williams and Moore went to the store owners to demand they stop selling the guns (illegally).
“We told them to stop selling the guns and if they didn’t stop selling the guns, we were going to shut them down,” said Moore.
The owners waved them off, claiming that they would stop. However, Williams, Moore and Carr sent decoys to buy the toy guns and it was discovered the store owners were still selling them. “They laughed at us. They thought we were a joke,” said Moore.
To show how serious they were, instead of vacationing on Labor Day, the trio enlisted community members to protest outside of the store. The demonstration also spawned a boycott. They urged would-be shoppers at the deli to spend their money elsewhere. “We were telling people, ‘Do not spend your money here because they’re selling guns to our kids that could lead to them getting killed.’” As a result, the 8 Brothers Deli closed down for the day, and has since stopped selling the guns.
Moore hopes that their small movement inspires parallel actions in other communities. “I hope this sends a message to other communities who struggle with similar situations to step up and get involved before we have another tragedy on our hands. It shouldn’t take tragedy to strike for us to be active in our communities.” He added, “By them selling those toy guns, it just gives the police a reason to do something like that. It’s like it’s an all-out season on African Americans. If something like that happens here, then we have another Eric Garner or Mike Brown or John Crawford or Trayvon Martin on our hands. We have to be proactive and take care of our own community.”