Category Archives: police

#Blacklivesmatter and Militarized police responses to protest

Baton Rouge Police officer points machine gun at peaceful crowd. Photo by David Lohr/Huffpost

Astounding images of militarized responses to peaceful protestare emerging from the July actions against police violence.  Stunned by the graphic videos of the police killing Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge Louisiana many people have taken to the streets to express their outrage.   They have been met with police seemingly ready for confrontations.

While thinking about heavy-handed police responses  it is essential to consider the killings of police officers in Dallas.  Police were covering a peaceful #blacklivesmatter rally when they were shot.  Five officers were killed and seven people were shot by a sniper unaffiliated with the movement.  I can imagine that the police are looking for enemies around every corner.

I hold both things true at the same time.  I mourn the dead and hurt police officers in Dallas.  I mourn the black people killed by police officers.

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DeRay McKesson was arrested in Baton Rouge last night.  You may have seen the photo of his arrest.

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DeRay McKesson getting arrested in Baton Rouge. Photo by Max Becherer AP.

Mckesson is a prominent Black Lives Matter activist who had traveled to Louisiana to document the protests.  One of hundreds arrested, Mckesson was filming when he was tackled by two police officers while walking on the side of the road.  The New York Times reports:

Mr. McKesson, 31, repeatedly tells viewers in the broadcast that there is no sidewalk where they are marching. In the background, an officer can be heard shouting, “You with them loud shoes, I see you in the road. If I get close to you, you’re going to jail.”

“I think he’s talking to me, y’all,” says Mr. McKesson, who often wears a blue vest and red sneakers to demonstrations.

Soon after, Mr. McKesson repeats that there is no sidewalk. “Watch the police, they are just literally provoking people,” he says.

Then, about five minutes into the broadcast, the video gets shaky and a police officer can be heard saying: “City police. You’re under arrest. Don’t fight me. Don’t fight me.” Then Mr. McKesson shouts, “I’m under arrest, y’all.”

Source: DeRay McKesson Among Protesters Arrested Nationwide – The New York Times

This seems like a targeted grab to arrest a spokesperson.  An arrest to intimidate and bully a journalist.  It also seems to be a particularly military response to activists calling attention to disparate racial policing.   Police have to know that these gun-waving, activist tackling moments make them look irrational and violent.

So many of these arbitrary and scary arrests appear to intentionally silence people.   A protester was doing an interview with Rochester journalist Tara Grimes when she was charged and grabbed and arrested by a circle of armored police officers.

These images are not inspiring.  I hope for civil dialogue and rapid cultural change.  But along the way we are going to have to document the logic and reasoning of these moments of militarized policing and hold them accountable.  I think public visibility is the only hope we have. I bet it will be hard, but it is necessary that communities continue to insist on respectful engaged police.

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Filed under communication, documentary, media, police, protest, representation, resistance

Cops on Alton Sterling: ‘Just leave him’

Louisiana Police killed Alton Sterling.  This is the 558th police killing of civilians THIS YEAR.   The convenience store clerk (Abdullah Muflahi) who witnessed the killing and reported to The Advocate:

Muflahi, who said he was two feet away from the altercation, said an officer yelled “gun” during the scuffle. An officer then fired four to six shots into Sterling’s chest, he said. “His hand was nowhere (near) his pocket,” Muflahi said, adding that Sterling wasn’t holding a weapon. After the shooting, an officer reached into Sterling’s pocket and retrieved a handgun, Muflahi said. “They were really aggressive with him from the start,” Muflahi said about the officers. Sterling appeared to die quickly, Muflahi said. Just after the killing, the officer who fired the bullets cursed, and both officers seemed like they were “freaking out,” Muflahi said. The store owner said he heard one of the officers say, “Just leave him.”

Source: ‘He’s got a gun! Gun’: Video shows fatal confrontation between Alton Sterling, Baton Rouge police officer | The Advocate — Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Its worth watching the video of the killing taken by bystanders.  Let’s note that both of the officer’s body cameras “fell off” according to law enforcement and the first thing the cops did is seize the surveillance footage from the convenience store.

Thanks to the Guardian for The Counted, the web site which documents police killings in the US.  Here is to peace and justice for the family.  Here is to accountability and a hope for change.

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Sandra Bland and police killing

It feels indulgent to write about anything other than the murder of Sandra Bland at the hands of police officers.   I don’t have much to add to the sad and terrified discourse surrounding the Bland killing.

But it gets you thinking about how a human being like Texas officer Brian Encinia becomes so brutally callous as to cry “good” when the suspect he is slamming to the ground declares that she has epilepsy.

Or how a young activist headed to a new job in a new place might run afoul of the police system she had critiqued.

Edited video, officer suspended, suspicious death in the jail.  These things should enrage you and be motivation for culture change which is deeply necessary.   Watch the traffic stop video if you can:

Rest In Power Sandra Bland.

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Technology extending activism #blacklivesmatter

1.  Thanks to Feministing for the best framing of the uprising in Baltimore.  I appreciate the foregrounding of gender, class, and the juxtaposition of Wholefoods feeding the National Guard and community members organizing (through technology) to feed local kids.

2.  The New York Times seems to think that activism documented through the internet focusing on police violence is a new thing.  It isn’t, but Jay Caspian Kang’s write up of the radicalization of the leaders of this movement is a useful connection point.  Here Kang outlines the articulation of long-standing injustices into first-person experiences of tear-gas saturated outrage in Ferguson.

Mckesson was radicalized that night. “I just couldn’t believe that the police would fire tear gas into what had been a peaceful protest,” he told me. “I was running around, face burning, and nothing I saw looked like America to me.” He also noticed that his account of that night’s tear-gassings, along with a photo he took of the rapper J. Cole, had brought him quite a bit of attention on Twitter. Previously, Mckesson had used the social-media platform to post random news articles that interested him, but now he was realizing its documentary power. He quickly grasped that a protester’s effectiveness came mostly from his ability to be present in as many places as possible: He had to be on West Florissant when the police rolled up in armored vehicles; inside the St. Louis coffee shop MoKaBe’s, a safe haven for the protesters in the city’s Shaw neighborhood, when tear gas started to seep in through the front door; in front of the Ferguson Police Department when shots rang out. He had to keep up a steady stream of tweets and carry around a charger so his phone wouldn’t die.

via ‘Our Demand Is Simple: Stop Killing Us.’ – NYTimes.com.

 

 

 

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Filed under colonialism, communication, do-it-yourself, human rights, juxtaposition, media, memorial, police, protest, representation, resistance, technology

Police violence and mentally ill: firing dissidents

Toshio Meronek has a thoughtful piece about police violence toward mentally ill people.  I appreciated the article, but one part stuck out.  Meronek writes:

Statistics and history show there’s little accountability for cops who use excessive force, like in central New Jersey, where a 2014 study by the Courier News and the Home News Tribune found that 99 percent of police brutality complaints went uninvestigated. Last year, a police officer in Monterey, California was fired not for using too much force, but for using too little. In February of 2014, Corporal Thanh Nguyen a campus officer at California State University Monterey Bay, refused to tase a mentally ill black student when prompted by officers from the nearby Marina, California police force. After the Marina police filed a complaint with the university citing “failure to act,” Nguyen was fired. (In an interview with The Huffington Post, Jeff Solomon, president of the Statewide University Police Association, the officer’s union, explains that Nguyen refused to participate in the tasing because he believed it was unnecessary. Nguyen is now suing his former employer for wrongful termination.)

via Cops shouldn’t be above the Americans with Disabilities Act | Fusion.

There is an interesting groupthink dynamic in the firing of Nguyen.  Seems similar to the Border Patrol firing border agents who humanize people who cross the border.

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Corrupt cops Miami Gardens version

Cops gone wild – where they arrest anyone who has ever criticized them.  Like a convenience store clerk who regularly gets arrested for trespassing WHILE HE IS AT WORK!

Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.

He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.

Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.

Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.

Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.

But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.

So how can he be trespassing when he works there?

via In Miami Gardens, store video catches cops in the act – Miami Gardens / Opa-locka – MiamiHerald.com.

The convenience store owner had to install video cameras to track the cops.  What did he find?

Saleh was so troubled by what he saw that he decided to install video cameras in his store. Not to protect himself from criminals, because he says he has never been robbed. He installed the cameras — 15 of them — he said, to protect him and his customers from police.

Since he installed the cameras in June 2012 he has collected more than two dozen videos, some of which have been obtained by the Miami Herald. Those tapes, and Sampson’s 38-page criminal history — including charges never even pursued by prosecutors — raise some troubling questions about the conduct of the city’s police officers.

The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.

via In Miami Gardens, store video catches cops in the act – Miami Gardens / Opa-locka – MiamiHerald.com.

Salah, the store owner believes that the drive to arrest the poor black neighbors is driven in part by the need to have arrest statistics.

Saleh theorizes that it’s an easy way for the department to make it seem like they are making a large number of arrests.

“They have specialized units to combat crime and they need to bring in the numbers to justify those units,’’ Saleh said.

via In Miami Gardens, store video catches cops in the act – Miami Gardens / Opa-locka – MiamiHerald.com.

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Challenging representation about violence in Chicago

I’m impressed with the arguments presented criticizing the moral panic about gun violence in Chicago.  I don’t live in Chicago, but I’ve certainly read a number of heavily negative media stories in the last year.   Prison Culture blog has the critique and it seems persuasive to me.

It’s certainly true that in some parts of the city, you are more likely to be shot or physically harmed than in others. However, on the whole, Chicago is actually “safer” in terms of public shootings and homicides than it’s been in decades. The city is in fact nowhere close to being the so-called “Murder Capital” of the country. Check the statistics, you’ll see that I’m right.

But you notice that I said “safer” in terms of public shootings and homicides, not “safer” in terms of “violence.” Because in very real ways, in terms of structural and institutional violence and overall oppression, things are pretty terrible for a lot of people. But we don’t discuss this with nearly the frequency or sensationalism that we do when we catalog the dead and the injured (as important as it is to memorialize those precious lives).

via Prison Culture » Can We Please Bury “Stop the Violence” as a Slogan? It’s Meaningless.

I also like that they address the militarized language that influences the way we understand poverty and policing in Chicago.

When we use these terms (which may or may not accurately describe how we live based on our own subjective experiences), we inadvertently legitimate a military response from the state (though the state needs no excuse to crackdown on the marginalized).

I would suggest that even more insidious is the way that these terms condition our own thinking about ourselves and each other. We trap ourselves into responding to these structural problems with a punishment mindset and a war footing. And this has devastating consequences for communities that are already over-policed, militarized, under-resourced and ravaged through decades of disinvestment. Using this terminology ultimately contributes nothing to ending interpersonal violence & may in fact exacerbate it.

via Prison Culture » Can We Please Bury “Stop the Violence” as a Slogan? It’s Meaningless.

 Thanks to Feministing for the suggestion via their Weekly Feminist Reader.

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