June 7, 2022
(St. Louis, Mo.) On Tuesday, June 7, 2022, outside St. Louis City Hall at noon, the Fatal State Violence (FSV) Response Program and the Coalition Against Police Crimes & Repression (CAPCR) hosted the fifth Angelversary of Isaiah Hammett. Members of Isaiah Hammett’s family, along with fellow community members, spoke out to share their personal connections to the tragedy and to advocate for policy change and public support to combat deadly state violence.
The event marked five years since the Special Weapons and Tactical (SWAT) unit of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department (SLMPD) executed a “no-knock” raid, killing 21-year-old Isaiah Hammett. Gina Torres, Isaiah Hammett’s mother, spoke of the FSV Response Program’s support in advocating for her son’s justice. The FSV Response Program has also provided spaces of healing and support, a crisis team and hotline responders, and advocacy for policy change centering those who have been directly impacted by fatal state violence. In commemoration, Torres spoke of her son, her grief, and called for justice and accountability.
“They [the officers] get to go home and sleep with their kids at night, they get to celebrate their birthdays, they get to take pictures of their kids and family. What do we get? What do we get? Nothing,” Ms. Torres stated.
Torres also conveyed her frustration from the resistance she has faced when trying to gather missing and important documents from the police department regarding her son’s death. For those that have lost a loved one to fatal state violence, retrieving significant documents can be almost impossible, leaving families without death certificates, autopsy reports, and incident reports among other documents.
Along with words from Ms. Torres, Hammett’s aunt, grandmother, and two sisters recalled fond memories of their late loved one as well as the pain and suffering they endured after he was “slaughtered” by SLMPD.
“I was only seven when he died. The police took away my brother’s life. I say justice for Isaiah Hammett,” said his sister, London, who is now twelve years old.
Torres, the Hammett family, and other surviving family members who spoke during the Angelversary called for action.
Don Clark Jr. – son of Don Clark Sr. who was killed when the SWAT unit of SLMPD carried out a “no-knock raid” in February 2017– spoke in solidarity with Gina Torres. Sharing the grief of those lost to fatal state violence, he spoke on his father’s death and the violence of no-knock warrants.
“There’s no reason for people to come to say they’re executing safety for our public, but these people, the family, they lost a son, a father,” Mr. Clark, Jr., expressed.
Clark, Jr. continued, “I am here for the fight. I will not stop until I get justice for my family, for the Hammett family, and all the other families that are suffering and experiencing the same hurt that my family, this family, and all the other families are enduring.”
ArchCity Defenders Staff Attorney Brittney Watkins served as the emcee for the event and echoed the five policy demands made by the families, which include reparations for those who have experienced fatal state violence.
“It is high time for justice. The families have been long advocating for change; this isn’t new. They’ve been in this fight for a long time. Even before the FSV program started, they have been crying out for elected officials and community to heed their cries for justice, for change, and to join them in their fight,” said Watkins.
Watkins and Ms. Torres both emphasized the policy demands created by the families directly impacted in order to reduce fatal state violence, including: a full, unequivocal ban on the use of no-knock raids, “quick-knock” raids, and other forms of militarized policing on St. Louis residents; a full, unequivocal ban on the police use of vehicular chases, which endanger not only the person being chased but the officers doing the chasing and bystanders; truly independent investigations of killings by police, with real consequences and accountability; increased transparency for surviving families on the circumstance of our loved ones’ death; and reparations for families who have lost loved ones to police violence.
As the Angelversary came to an end, the family passed around red balloons to release in celebration of Isaiah’s life. Ms. Torres and other speakers called for the public’s support by contacting one’s elected officials in support of the five demands.
The Angelversary was streamed via Facebook Live here. For more information about ArchCity’s overall initiative to combat fatal state violence, visit: www.archcitydefenders.org/fatalstateviolence and follow #fatalstateviolence on social media.
Z Gorley, Communications Director, ArchCity Defenders