Comics & Classifieds Editor
On Monday, October 26, a video went viral of a female student being yanked out of her chair and thrown to the ground by a sheriff working at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina.
In a press conference for a South Carolina television station after the incident, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that the sheriff had been responding to a disruptive student who was not leaving the classroom when she was told to by the teacher. After the officer repeatedly told her to leave, she still refused, provoking a response from the officer, The New York Times also reported.
Sheriff Lott did not release the name of the deputy or the student involved, but the deputy was later identified by many students at the school as Ben Fields, one of two deputies that work at the school, according to CNN.com. Many on social media said that the officer should be fired while school officials say that an act like this will not be tolerated.
After this video and an investigation by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Fields was fired on October 28 after the inquiry reported that Fields did not follow the rules when he threw the student across the room, says USA Today. USA Today also reports that many students at a South Carolina high school walked out of class to protest the firing of Fields peacefully and quickly, with students saying that, “We do not agree with Ben Fields’ actions, but we do not think he should have be fired.”
During all this, the FBI branch in Columbia has opened a Civil Rights investigation into the situation, WLTX 19 reports. The inquiry was opened to, “collect all available facts and evidence in order to see if a federal civil rights law was broke,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge David Thomas in an announcement on October 27.
After the video went viral on that Monday, with the memories of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and more recent tragedies fresh in people’s minds, activists started to speak out and accuse this as just another instance of police brutality in our country.
“I can not really say, since I’m a white woman, but I do not think the outrage about these videos and events are linked to any specific event in the past. But I think it’s the American way to want justice,” said AP US History and government teacher Mrs. Whaley.
Many, have also stated that the issue with this video is not based on race and that Officer Fields’ actions were not based on race either, sheriff Leon Lott saying that, “Officer Fields has a black girlfriend,” The New York Times reported.
In the past two weeks, Fields has also been the target of two lawsuits, with the jury finding one in his favor and the other currently pending.
The investigation into this occurrence is still going on and the debate as to whether this is an example of racially motivated police brutality or just a one time occurrence of over-aggressiveness is still being discussed.