Enterprise

Beaumont citizens, activists march for Chris Shaw


Nearly 50 community members, civil rights activists and attorneys on Saturday marched for a man who can breath but cannot walk as they called for “a new day in Beaumont.”

Those who participated in the short march and rally around Martin Luther King Jr. Park on College Street carried signs and chanted to “say his name” as they demanded “transparency now.”

Christopher Shaw, 41, was a cook at a local hotel until he was allegedly paralyzed while in the custody of the Beaumont Police Department on June 12. Now, his attorneys and supporters are calling not only for BPD to release the video footage of the incident to the public, but also create a citizen’s review panel along with the arrest and a long prison sentence for the police officer who allegedly critically injured Shaw.

“I am here because a lot of people who have been in my situation, they are gone,” said Shaw, who was speaking publicly from his wheelchair for the first time since the incident. “I want to thank y’all for the love and support y’all have been giving me. I will leave y’all with this: My mom use to tell me, ‘Whatever happens in the dark, comes to light.’ My situation is getting better. I’m still fighting for my life, but I’m still here.”

Shaw’s attorneys, who said they have reviewed video footage from inside the jail where Shaw was taken on charges of public intoxication, claim the officer flipped Shaw on his head while his hands were handcuffed behind his back.

Shaw has been indicted for allegedly assaulting the officer. The Beaumont Police Department, which was not immediately available for comment Saturday, told The Enterprise on Friday that it has investigated the officer. A representative also called the incident “unfortunate” and said the department “never wants to see anyone get hurt” due to the pending case.

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The march, held only about 1 mile from the police department, followed a Friday news conference held in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse. The rally was sponsored by the NAACP and Concerned Citizens for Justice and Transparency. Members of other organizations also were in attendance.

North Carolina-based Lynch Law LLC. Managing Attorney, Chance Lynch, and his co-council Harry Daniels from the Atlanta-based Law Offices of Harry M. Daniels, LLC on Saturday once again were at Shaw’s side as they hoped to raise awareness and made a demand for transparency and justice.

“How do you stand behind an officer who broke the law?” Lynch said. “How do you stand behind an officer who took an oath to protect and serve Mr. Shaw?”

The coalition of groups, including the attorneys, are calling for awareness and accountability to peacefully continue even after the attorneys fly home.

“I’m hoping that this is the start,” Lynch said. “I hoping that this community sees how important that this issue is, and that they see the injustice and that they begin today holding the police department accountable for the mistreatment of black people in their community.”

Daniels, a former police officer, criticized the officer’s actions and said those who are not part of the change are part of the problem.

“I used to wear the uniform,” Daniels said. “There is no training, no police policy, that tells you that you pick a man up by his handcuffs, over your head, dropping him on his head, and break his neck with several fractures in his body. What you see is absolute injustice.”

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Before and after the march, the group gathered to listen to singing and speeches, including from Shaw’s 23-year-old niece Gharrionna Cooper, of Beaumont, who sang “We Shall Overcome” after giving an emotional testimony about the impact her uncle’s paralysis has had on the entire family. Relatives in attendance carried signs that read “Christopher Shaw Deserves Justice Now” and “ Black Lives Matter. We Deserve Justice.”

“Ever since this happened, it is not just one person who has been affected. It is our whole family,” Cooper said before naming her mother and aunt. “They go to his house every day and they have to help him get out of that bed. My mama has to work two jobs to make sure she can keep her house and his house afloat because he can’t go to work for himself. And it just don’t make no sense. Just — we tired.”

“He just had a grandson,” Cooper continued before pausing as her voice cracked and tears rolled down her face. “He can’t go do the things he wants to do with his grandson because he’s got to lay in a bed. He can’t just get up and walk and go get in a car and drive to go see his grandson. He can’t run and play with his children. He can’t play go play football and basketball and race his children down the sidewalk or the street. He can’t do that. They took that from him. And that’s not fair. That’s not fair to us. That’s not fair to him.”

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Rev. Michael Cooper, president of the NAACP’s Beaumont chapter, shared personal stories, and with low grumble in his voice called for Beaumont to “make some noise” for Shaw reminding citizens that they never know when it could be one them.

“Lift up your voice and be heard,” Cooper said.

Candice Matthews, who represented the Rainbow PUSH Coalition — an international human and civil rights organization founded by Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, chanted with the group that said Shaw’s name and demanded for transparency now. Matthews, who also is the statewide accountability chair for the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, informed the group that they would have to continue to stay on top of the local government.

“He should not be in this wheelchair,” Matthews said during the rally. “Because in Houston, we ain’t playing that mess with George Floyd. Why is this happening here in Beaumont? We need to get everybody out here because this young man actually has his life.”

She said it’s everyone’s responsibility to stand up for others.

“We’ve got to kick down some doors,” she continued. “We’ve got to let them know because these elected officials work for us, we don’t work for you.”

Afterwards, Matthews told The Enterprise that “kick down some doors” was meant to be metaphorical. She added that there was a need to not normalize this type of “police brutality.”

Those involved with the event said if they did not get the outcome they are seeking, they would want to see a change in leadership, such as with the police chief and city council members. The group stressed the importance of voting.

meagan.ellsworth@beaumontenterprise.com

twitter.com/megzmagpie





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