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Racial Tensions Flare In Baton Rouge After Police Fatally Shoot A Black Man


An African-American man was fatally shot last night in an encounter with police in suburban St. Paul, Minn. The aftermath of this incident, showing Philando Castile dying, was caught on video. And this incident has sparked protests in the streets of St. Paul. We'll have updates on this elsewhere in the program. Let's turn now to another fatal shooting from earlier in this week that took place in Baton Rouge, La.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Let my people go. No more can die. No more tears crying.

GREENE: That's the sound of hundreds of people marching in protest for Alton Sterling. The 37-year-old African-American was shot dead by police early Tuesday in Baton Rouge. A cellphone video shows officers struggling to pin Sterling to the ground outside a convenience store before shooting him. A Justice Department civil rights investigation is now under way. And for a closer look at what's happening in Baton Rouge, we reached professor Albert Samuels at Southern University in Baton Rouge.

ALBERT SAMUELS: There have been issues between the Baton Rouge police and the black community. Nothing has ever spiraled to this level of intensity.

GREENE: Samuel says that the city of Baton Rouge is really two cities.

SAMUELS: What we call North Baton Rouge is overwhelmingly African-American. And yet while there's some economic development there, there's also a lot of high poverty, a lot of high-crime neighborhoods. And the southern part of the parish is prosperous. And Florida Boulevard seems to be the dividing line.

GREENE: The shooting this week took place north of Florida Boulevard. Samuels says despite now having its first black mayor, Baton Rouge has a history of racial tension. Just last year, a majority-white part of the city launched a failed petition to secede. He says how authorities handle this incident might determine how the city goes ahead.

SAMUELS: I think this race thing is this issue that is always very close to the surface in Baton Rouge. It's kind of hard to go forward when we're allowing one half of the city to just be neglected. People are genuinely outraged by this issue. But it's also reflective of this underlying reality that people feel like that what happens in their part of the city doesn't seem to matter.

GREENE: That is Professor Albert Samuels of Southern University in Baton Rouge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.