- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 8, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - As an act of violence once again focuses the nation on the relationship between law enforcement and minorities, the Rev. Al Sharpton said Wednesday that his civil rights organization will stand with the family of the black South Carolina man fatally shot by a white police officer.

Sharpton addressed the killing of Walter Scott at the beginning of his National Action Network conference in New York on Wednesday. Before the shooting, the annual gathering already had scheduled a panel discussion on police brutality featuring the families of several black men and boys killed by police in the last year, including Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Sean Bell and Tamir Rice.

“We are saying for the sake of this family in Charleston, that not only are we with you, we are saying that there must be national legislation around cameras and police accountability,” Sharpton said.

North Charleston Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager was charged with murder Tuesday after dramatic video emerged that appears to show the officer shooting Scott as he fled following a traffic stop.

Scott falls after the eighth shot. Slager has said he fired in self-defense.

Sharpton praised the police and mayor of North Charleston “for doing the right thing” in charging the officer. He called for national reform on police conduct, saying “we cannot have a justice system that hopes we have a city with a right mayor or police chief.” He said he planned to travel to Charleston in the coming days.

The civil rights leader was flanked by several elected officials as he spoke, including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who nodded along with Sharpton’s call for reform. Though he did not mention Garner by name, de Blasio alluded to his death on Staten Island last summer, which also was captured on video.

“Once again we are watching a video. It’s a video that is so disturbing and so painful,” the mayor said. “You can’t watch that as a human being and not feel pain. It makes no sense according to what our core notions of humanity and decency and justice are.”

A grand jury did not bring charges against the officer who was filmed placing Garner in a chokehold. Garner’s widow broke down in tears while addressing the conference crowd at a Manhattan hotel.

“Sometimes I just want to curl up and give up on my life but I can’t because I need to go on for my kids and my grandkids,” said Esaw Snipes Garner.

The grand jury’s decision led to days of protests that swept through city streets. A gunman cited Garner’s death on social media before he gunned down two NYPD officers in December, which led the city’s police unions into an open revolt against de Blasio, who they blamed for permitting an anti-NYPD sentiment to take hold in the city.

The tension between de Blasio and the police has lessened, though the mayor on Wednesday again touted the police reforms his administration is putting into place, including equipping officers with body cameras. His relationship with Sharpton, a vocal NYPD critic, became a flashpoint in the rift, but de Blasio did not hesitate to leap to his feet to give the civil rights leader a standing ovation at the beginning of his remarks.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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