ROCKINGHAM — After the fatal shootings of black men Philandro Castile in St. Paul, Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Lousiania by police officers — followed by the shooting of 12 law enforcement officers with five dying in Dallas, Texas — Tavares Bostic received two dozen phone calls and text messages asking, “What’s next?”
“Everyone right now have had a knee-jerk reaction,” said Bostic, who is the founder of Brothers Leaning on Another Creating Kings and is running for for a seat on the Richmond County Board of Commissioners. “I think at this point, people want a sense of what’s next. I believe when things like this happen, we can’t just look at the event. What happened to allow what we saw last week to happen? Now is the perfect time to start a conversation. I just felt like tonight, just trying to get a sense of what you guys feel should be next.”
The time he spoke of was a meeting of the Richmond County chapter of the NAACP held at St. Stephens Missionary Baptist Church.
Silence filled the air of the sanctuary as no one spoke up with feedback in regards to Bostic’s inquiry.
“The silence is how hypocrisy continues to happen,” he said. “The silence is what allows us to be hashtags. What we’re talking about — all lives matter — is what we’re aspiring to be.”
Bostic added that the small group of vigilantes allegedly responsible for the officers shooting in downtown Dallas during a peaceful demonstration are hiding under the umbrella of “Black Lives Matter.”
Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters met with the Veterans Club of the Hamlet Senior Center Wednesday afternoon to thank them for their service and giving him the opportunity to be a police officer today. But with recent events, he soon found himself speaking from the heart on what’s going on, not only from the law enforcement side but from a religious aspect.
“There’s a lot going on in our country, and we’re still a great nation despite what’s going on,” Waters said. “There seems to be a lot of hate in the world. We all need to come together. We all need to unite and put God first. Our nation has gotten away from God. I feel like we need to put him first. I have concerns with the violence going on around the world, our concern for our officers and the safety of our citizens. I don’t want anybody to use deadly force if we don’t have to, and we don’t want deadly force used against us. Everybody will have to unite and don’t be divided.”
Waters went on to say he thinks the shootings have nothing to do with race, but rather the hatred and violence seen in society.
“There’s no love. Nobody respects anybody,” he said. “When I was young, you go to school, you got in trouble you got a paddling, and when you got home you got it again. Our teachers were respected. It seems like the values that are being taught are different than when we grew up.”
The police chief encouraged everybody to stay safe and treat each other with equal justice. With his officers, he tells them to make sure their body cameras are on, treat people fairly and go home to their families.
“They’ve got a job to do. Don’t let what’s going on in the media make you hesitant with doing your job, but do your job right and by the book,” he tells his officers. “You never know. We all put that badge on everyday, and we know the risk with the office. There could be that one evil person that doesn’t want us to go home at the end of the shift.”
With regards to the Castile and Sterling shootings last week, Waters said people need to keep an open mind and get all the facts before rushing to judgement.
“You only see a certain part of the story. I don’t wanna see anybody lose their life, but unless you know the whole thing, I can’t form an opinion on who’s wrong and who’s right,” he said. “I don’t think the cops come out there to see who we can hurt today. Something’s wrong with the world. What’s wrong? Where’s the love at? We’ve gotten too much away from the good Lord.”
Bostic spoke of the knee-jerk reactions that he said happened after last week’s shooting and encouraged those at the NAACP meeting to have consistency.
“That’s the reason why we continue to become hashtags because they know we’re not gonna be consistent. Having knee-jerk reactions and reverting back to 1960s tactics is not gonna sustain us,” said Bostic. “So we can march and we can protest, but if we don’t show up consistently, folks will say, ‘We can take this for a week.’ Doesn’t matter if you wear a suit jacket everyday and you speak well in public or if you’re a thug wearing your pants down low. In any event, we can both be a hashtag.
“We have to arm ourselves with information,” he continued. “If the only time you know of headlines is when it hits the paper, you’re already too late. You are too late to the party. If anytime you see things that’s going on in your neighborhood about money coming in or this building going up, the only thing we have is an argument in settings like this. These things are always taking place. We just have to show up. We have to know how to show up in order to get things done.”
Reach reporter Matt Harrelson at 910-817-2674 and follow him on Twitter @mattyharrelson.