Between Houston and Dallas rests a bucolic town, Jasper, with elegant pine trees dotting its landscape and a charming nickname, the “Butterfly Capital of Texas.” However, the town is home to some notoriously ugly racial history – in 1998, three white men killed a black man, James Byrd Jr., by chaining him to a pickup truck and driving around until he was pummeled to death by the town's country roads. Just last year, Jasper hired its first black police chief, Rodney Pearson, with the help of a majority-black City Council. However, Jasper’s “League of Concerned Citizens” recalled the black council members who rallied behind the new chief, calling into office a new 4-1 majority-white council, which then predictably fired Pearson from his new position. “The whole thing is racist. It’s based on race. It has nothing to do with qualifications,” said Alton Scott, one of the remaining black councilmen.
In fact, Jasper City Cemetery remains segregated, with black graves located on the bottom of the hill and white graves at the top – although the fence that used to divide them was torn down in solidarity when Byrd Jr. was murdered. “Put a black up here? No, no, we wouldn’t do that. That would be against our custom, against our way of doing things,” explained Snell to the NYT, an 80 year-old white member of the cemetery’s board of directors.
Now, Jasper comes back into the news with a case that has both gendered and racial implications. A disturbing video recently surfaced that shows two white police officers brutally beating a black woman at the station. Keyarika Diggles was “brought to the jail on May 5 for an unpaid fine.” Her attorney, Cade Bernsen, told Yahoo News that she was “on the phone with her mother trying to arrange to get the $100 owed when Officer Ricky Grissom cut off the call.”
The video does not include audio, but the inhumane violence playing on screen speaks for itself. Grissom and Cunningham wrestle Diggles from behind, and when she appears to struggle briefly, they grab her by the hair, slamming her head into the countertop and shoving her onto the floor. They then proceed to drag her by the ankles into a cell, screaming at her all the while.
“The amount of force used was abominable,” Bernsen says, stating that his client got her hair pulled off, broke a tooth, and had her braces knocked off. Bernsen also represents Rodney Pearson, who is suing for the violation of his civil rights.
Although Diggles wrote up a complaint, it was ignored until footage of the crime against her was broadcast with help from Council Member Scott, who turned it over to a local TV station. “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” Scott lamented.
Thankfully, the officers could not carry out such heinous acts with impunity – they were recently fired from their stations. Jasper’s interim city manager confirmed the terminations. The council also requested that the disgraced officers be investigated further for possible criminal charges. Here’s to hoping that both Diggles and Pearson receive their due justice.
Photo and Video Credit to Google Images, Youtube, and The Blaze