Triple S Food Mart is at the intersection of North Foster Drive and Fairfields Avenue in Baton Rouge. Cars come and go from the parking lot with no attempt to park in any kind of a line or pattern. Lots of late-model economy types, some Camaros; an SUV with big spinning rims pulls up sideways at one point. On the pavement is a spray-painted message: “RiP Alton 3rd World.”
This is the spot where Alton Sterling was shot point-blank by a few members of the Baton Rouge Police Department. People from the community who knew him have come here since to show their support.
Against the corrugated metal wall of the store’s facade, under a larger-than-life mural of Sterling’s golden smile, is a collection of teddy bears, flowers, and other mementos left by mourners and protesters; because it was raining today, the hodgepodge of items is covered with clear plastic sheeting. A sign on the right of the pile reads, “Stop the Violence,” and a sign on the left reads, “Don’t reduce our voice / We will not be Silenced.”
I arrive at around 10 p.m., where, at that corner, a group of protesters holding signs has been chanting loudly to the passing traffic: “Indict! Convict! Send killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” Motorists honk every few seconds, some just offering a little toot of support, others leaning on the horn the whole time they sit at the stoplight. At one point, a tractor-trailer pulls up and blasts his trucker horn for a full 30 seconds, maybe longer.
A young man named Khiko, 25, comes out of the Triple S with a paper bag of fried chicken and sits on a tool box next to the mural. He starts eating while he talks to me about Alton (“I knew Alton Sterling since I was 9 years old, dude taught me a lot, taught me about the value of a dollar,”) when a young woman in glasses and a head scarf comes over to advise him against talking to me — “She might be an agent,” she says — and Khiko gets up and leaves.
I go to where she’s retreated, under a pop-up tent on the side of the parking lot, and she tells me, “We ain’t giving y’all no stories. Y’all already got us fucked up. Go ask the police about the man they killed … I don’t wanna deal with anymore of y’all crackers.” I don’t leave, so she calls over one of the protesters chanting at the intersection to talk to me.
Chimica O’Conner, 35, also says she knew Alton. “I bought CDs from him,” she says.
This isn’t the first person she’s known who has been killed by police this year. O’Conner says her cousin, Travis Stevenson, 48, was also shot in March by a member of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. Stevenson was blocked in a driveway and was sitting in his car when he was killed by multiple gunshots to the head and torso.
More to come.