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Large Crowds Expected For Walter Scott's S.C. Funeral


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Tamara Keith, Scott Simon is a way. This morning, mourners are gathering in Summerville, S.C. to remember Walter Scott. Walter Scott was a father, he was close to his mother, and he loved the Dallas Cowboys. Walter Scott, who is black, was pulled over a week ago for a routine traffic stop in North Charleston. He was shot in the back by a white police officer as he ran away. Police Officer Michael Slager was charged with Scott's murder and fired. NPR's Martin Kaste is at World Ministries Christian Center where Walter Scott's funeral begins later this morning. He joins me now. Hi, Martin.


KEITH: Martin, what are you seeing this morning? Are there big crowds expected for this funeral?

KASTE: Well, they've said it's open to the public, and this has been a very big event here in North Charleston - Charleston area so probably. It's till two hours away and yet traffic is already starting to heat up at this leafy suburban church. Parking is already a problem. It's kind of a rainy morning so that might keep things down. And, of course, we are quite a distance from North Charleston so it's about a half hour drive. The family also, even though they've opened this funeral to the public, are trying to keep media of any kind out of the ceremony. And that sort of gives you an indication that this is a little bit less of a high-profile event as perhaps the funeral of Michael Brown last summer in St. Louis. That was a very big deal. Here I think this might be a little more subdued at least in terms of its public profile.

KEITH: As you say, the protests were so intense last year in Ferguson, Mo., and in New York following the death of Eric Garner. What's the mood in North Charleston?

KASTE: Well, people are very, very angry about that video - about what they saw happen there. But things - there are some key differences. The fact that the police officer, as soon as that video came out, was arrested, was charged, was fired. That's I think dissipated some of the anger here. It's now really a bigger question about what to do with this information, how to go forward, what kind of reforms should be implemented. There may still be some larger protests. People are still trying to organize. Black Lives Matter has quite a presence outside City Hall in North Charleston. But it's, you know, this has become more kind of a discussion over possible reforms; things like whether or not to have civilian oversight of the police.

KEITH: And so you're saying that they are pushing - activists are pushing for police reforms?

KASTE: Oh, that's their chief demand. They had a deadline for the mayor to respond to what he was going to do about that last night. That deadline came and went, and they are talking about resistance; it's unclear what that means. Also, we're seeing some national luminaries arriving here this weekend. Al Sharpton will be preaching at another church tomorrow morning, and the mayor of North Charleston and the police chief will both be in attendance there. At the same time, there's some - go ahead.

KEITH: Is there any push back on the call for police reforms?

KASTE: Well, I was going to say that Al Sharpton's appearance here caused the Fraternal Order of Police, the local union organization, to release a statement yesterday criticizing what they called professional race agitators from outside saying that they were trying to seize the moment, as they put it, for their own purposes. Even though they did call the shooting incomprehensible, there is some push back at the idea that this is a big racial problem. I think some people here are starting to say, well, maybe it's a police problem per se.

KEITH: NPR's Martin Kaste, thank you for joining us.

KASTE: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.