MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota Vikings are preparing to play a game Sunday in North Carolina, just blocks from where violent protests took place Wednesday night in response to yet another police shooting of a black man.
Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson has been watching the unfolding events closely, and has been growing frustrated.
“It’s just unfortunate. But the thing about it is these things have been going on for decades and decades on end. And the only thing [different now] is that people have cellphones and can document it and it can be seen on a daily basis now,” Johnson said. “It’s a scary system that needs to be fixed. People in authority that’s doing these acts need to be accountable for them.”
The protests began Tuesday night in Charlotte after a police officer, who is also black, shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Scott in an apartment complex parking lot. Police said Scott was armed and ignored orders to drop his weapon. His family said he was holding a book.
The protests escalated Wednesday and moved within a few blocks of the Carolina Panthers’ stadium, turning violent with gunshots and vandalism. The governor of North Carolina declared a state of emergency, but the NFL said Thursday the game will be played as scheduled.
The events in Charlotte come just days after 40-year-old Terence Crutcher, who is black, was shot and killed by police in Tulsa while approaching his vehicle unarmed, with his hands raised.
“I’ve seen these things happen over and over again. It’s not like this is just starting to happen,” Johnson said. “People need to be accountable for what they do. I think if you do something wrong in this kind of system [of government] then you should be punished.”
Johnson says he does not plan to protest during the National Anthem, as a number of other players around the NFL—none on the Vikings — have done in the past several weeks in response to social injustice. But he is supportive and appreciative of their actions.
“That’s not my job right now,” Johnson said. “I can respect that, I see it, and I commend those guys.”
For Johnson, these issues of police misconduct are personal. He is currently suing the city of Minneapolis and two of its police officers, alleging that he was a victim of excessive force and false arrest. The trial is scheduled for March of 2018.
Johnson was arrested in October of 2014 when authorities said he ignored commands to leave the Seven Steakhouse in downtown Minneapolis at closing. Police used chemical spray and a stun gun, and Johnson was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct.
In a statement shortly after the arrest, Johnson’s agent said he was not under the influence of alcohol and was waiting for a valet to deliver his vehicle. The statement said Johnson was calm and cooperative, but that officers yelled at him to leave the lobby, pepper sprayed him as he left and knocked his cellphone out of his hand. Johnson had been using the cellphone to record video of the incident, and that video, which showed a uniformed police officer slapping away the phone, was used in Johnson’s defense in court.
A jury acquitted Johnson in June in just 15 minutes.