Charleston, South Carolina (CNN)Deacon Thad Miller closed his barbershop for the evening and sat in a worn leather chair by the front window. He was exhausted. Not just by the day’s work, but also the topic of conversation gripping his city.
Residents in Charleston are struggling under the weight of two racially charged trials. Jury selection is scheduled to resume Monday in the trial of Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who confessed to killing nine people at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. The trial of Michael Slager, a white former North Charleston police officer charged in the shooting death of an unarmed black man, Walter Scott
, 50, started about a month ago.
The trials are taking place simultaneously in courthouses directly across the street from one another. Charlestonians, especially those in black communities, are watching the trials with a mix of skepticism and cautious optimism.
“One thing I did not understand is why they had both trials around the same time,” Miller said. “I just thought it would be too much on people from Charleston.”
Slager has told investigators Scott did not comply with his demands and tried to grab his stun gun. He has said he looks forward to clearing his name in court.
The case drew national attention after a witness video emerged
, capturing the incident in vivid detail. Rights activists across the country decried the shooting as yet another instance of police brutality against black people.
The North Charleston Police Department fired Slager. A grand jury indicted him on a murder charge on June 8, 2015, days before Roof attacked Emanuel AME Church.
Slager faces 30 years to life in prison, if convicted.
The jury tasked with deciding his fate
includes six white men, five white women and one black man. Jessie Parks, 33, a freelance editor in Charleston, believes the jury’s racial makeup is “an injustice.”
“Charleston is so gentrified that even the damn jury is gentrified,” said Parks, who is white. “So, we’re going into this trial from a standpoint of injustice from the get-go.”
Heather Hann, 43, who is also white, said if she was on the jury, she would certainly convict Slager, based on the video evidence.
“From my perspective, it seems like the officer was 100 percent guilty,” said Hann, a shift supervisor at a coffee shop. “And I do think the nation, if they get it wrong on that trial, should pay attention to that.”
There is speculation that any verdict short of guilty in Slager’s trial may spark protests and even riots similar to those that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri
, and Baltimore, Maryland
, following the officer-involved deaths of unarmed black men in police encounters. However, the Rev. Joseph A. Darby, first vice president of the Charleston Branch of the NAACP, doesn’t believe that’s likely.
“I would imagine an acquittal would lead to a great deal of bitterness, a great deal of anger. I think a great deal of it would be suppressed, as is usually the case in Charleston,” he said.
“This is Charleston. We specialize in raging politeness down here.”
‘God will restore us’
The historically black Mother Emanuel Church
is a glorious white building on a street named after John C. Calhoun, a slavery advocate and vice president to John Quincy Adams.
A sign outside in capital letters thanks strangers for their kindness.
Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/28/us/charleston-slager-roof-trials/index.html