The police shooting of 21-year-old Emantic Bradford Jr. has sparked frequent protests in Hoover. And while demonstrations played a key role in the struggle for civil rights decades ago, many African Americans today are divided as to whether these marches calling for justice in the wake of Bradford’s killing help or hurt the cause.
Demonstrators have marched inside the mall to the very spot where Emantic Bradford Jr. was killed. They’ve marched in front of City Hall and at major Hoover attractions like a movie theater and a new Dave & Buster’s video arcade.
Police initially said Bradford fired shots that Thanksgiving night at the Riverchase Galleria when he was fatally shot. But they later said the real gunman was still on the loose. They arrested a Bessemer man on Friday in connection with the shooting.
In the meantime, protesters continue to feel outraged. Cara McClure, founder of Black Lives Matter Birmingham, participates in the marches. She’s heard people say they should wait until after the investigation to march. But she disagrees.
“Wait for what,” she says. “Our protest is based on what we already know. We already know what Hoover police admitted to. They admitted to shooting and murdering EJ and we know that they lied.”
Activists want video of the incident released. And they want Hoover residents to know what it’s like to be targeted based on race.
But there’s another chorus in the community that says the activists should not rush to judgement. Gary Richardson, host of Morning Talk on WJLD, an African American talk show and the mayor of Midfield says he encourages the black community to be calm and patient.
“We are in a society where people want instantaneous results, like watching TV on the cop shows,” Richardson says. “We’re going to get a verdict and a jury conviction right after the next commercial break.”
He says most African Americans don’t support the marches. They realize there are still many unanswered questions around the shooting, he says. But the loudest ones are getting the most attention.
“You have a handful of individuals who are going out as representatives of the African American Community in this city,” Richardson says. “They couldn‘t lead anybody out of a wet paper bag, and I would not follow any of them to a dog show.”
Mike McClure, the 35-year-old pastor of the Rock Church in Birmingham views the protests differently. Emantic Bradford Jr. and his mother often attended his church and he officiated Saturday’s funeral at the Boutwell Auditorium.
The protesters, McClure says, have a definite impact.
Last week, he got a call to meet with city and religious leaders in Hoover to talk about the protests.
“I don’t get that phone call if the protesters don’t shut down the highway,” McClure says.
He’s referring to the demonstrations last week when protesters blocked all four lanes of U.S. 31 in Hoover near City Hall.
McClure’s family tree is planted in civil rights advocacy. His grandfather is Bishop Calvin Woods, leader of Birmingham’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
He says the protests are helpful, but the Birmingham-Hoover metro area needs to go beyond that to move forward.
“We want to be able to say, the Hoover police, let’s put a program together where you are with some people of diversity and we show you how to talk to us,” McClure says. “Let us help train you on what you see when you see our young men.”
Mike McClure says those changes can’t happen until Hoover reveals details about the shooting. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is handling the investigation. Hoover officials had said they would release more details if ALEA does not do it by noon today.
Now the city says it will not release details because ALEA says such a breach could jeopardize the investigation.