Tag Archives: Michael Brown

His name was Stephon Clark, young father of two, and we failed him fatally

Image result for Stephon Clark

The rather opportunist Al Sharpton plans to attend the funeral of Stephon Clark (pictured above) in my city of Sacramento, California, on Thursday. Clark, the 22-year-old father of two, was shot to death by two Sacramento police officers on March 18 but had had only a smartphone in his hand. A little-discussed wrinkle in this racially charged incident, however, is that one of the two cops who shot Clark to death is black, as is Sacramento’s police chief.

As I’ve noted before, you have to take these cases of cops killing black men case by case. There is no one-size-fits-all narrative, as politically convenient and personally satisfying as such narratives may be.

For instance, Eric Garner, in my book, was murdered, choked to death by a thug posing as a police officer.

And Walter Scott by any reasonable person’s book was murdered, shot in the back as he ran away from a coward posing as a police officer.

Both black men were unarmed. Garner’s “crime” for which he was put to death by cop was illegally selling cigarettes on the street, and Scott’s was a broken brake light. The cop who murdered Garner remains free, while the cop who murdered Scott sits in prison (albeit he technically was found guilty of civil rights violations, not of murder).

Again, each case must be taken by itself. The Michael Brown case, for instance, spawned a movement that was based on some lies, probably especially the ubiquitous “[my] hands [are] up — don’t shoot!” meme.

The Barack Obama/Eric Holder U.S. Department of Justice’s own final report on the Michael Brown matter found that the physical evidence, including the autopsy of Brown, corroborated white cop Darren Wilson’s version of what had happened, which is that “gentle giant” Brown had not tried to surrender to him with his hands raised in the air, but instead had attacked him and tried to take his pistol from him.

The last page of the Obama/Holder DOJ report concludes:

… As discussed above, Darren Wilson has stated his intent in shooting Michael Brown was in response to a perceived deadly threat. The only possible basis for prosecuting Wilson under section 242 would therefore be if the government could prove that his account is not true – i.e., that Brown never assaulted Wilson at the SUV, never attempted to gain control of Wilson’s gun, and thereafter clearly surrendered in a way that no reasonable officer could have failed to perceive.

Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of Witness 101, there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat.

Even if Wilson was mistaken in his interpretation of Brown’s conduct, the fact that others interpreted that conduct the same way as Wilson precludes a determination that he acted with a bad purpose to disobey the law. The same is true even if Wilson could be said to have acted with poor judgment in the manner in which he first interacted with Brown, or in pursuing Brown after the incident at the SUV.

These are matters of policy and procedure that do not rise to the level of a Constitutional violation and thus cannot support a criminal prosecution. Cf. Gardner v. Howard, 109 F.3d 427, 430–31 (8th Cir. 1997) (violation of internal policies and procedures does not in and of itself rise to violation of Constitution).

Because Wilson did not act with the requisite criminal intent, it cannot be proven beyond reasonable doubt to a jury that he violated 18 U.S.C.§ 242 when he fired his weapon at Brown.

VI. Conclusion
For the reasons set forth above, this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed.

Indeed, case closed. Legally, anyway, but the myth of Michael Brown lives on, because the myth still is politically useful and personally satisfying to so many.

Unfortunately, in the Brown case the black community rallied around the wrong case. If I had ever tried to take a cop’s gun away from him (or her), I wouldn’t expect to be sitting here typing this sentence — and I am a white male.

The Brown case unfortunately immediately was turned into an inherently-racist-and-murderous-white-cop-vs.-inherently-innocent-young-black-man-guilty-only-of-being-black myth. According to the DOJ report on the Brown case, bystanders had lied through their teeth about what they had witnessed — very apparently in order to perpetuate the lie that every time a white cop shoots a black male, it only can be rooted in racism (and not, say, in very immediate self-defense because the black male is trying to take your gun from you).

The recent shooting death here in Sacramento of 22-year-old black man Stephon Clark also has some wrinkles that aren’t convenient to the aforementioned narrative that (only) white cops shoot young black men willy-nilly: One of the two cops who are reported to have shot Clark to death is black (see here too), as is Sacramento’s police chief, Sacramento native Daniel Hahn.

Hahn has said that he suspects that Clark was the man reported to have been breaking the windows of vehicles in a Sacramento neighborhood on March 18 before he was confronted by two cops in his grandparents’ backyard and shot to death.

All that Clark had in his possession, however, was a smartphone, and from the police helicopter video of the shooting, I cannot see that it was necessary for Clark to be shot even once, much more 20 times.* (A police body-camera video of the shooting that also was released does not give any more insight than does the helicopter video, other than that the cops apparently were trigger-happy; I struggle to even see Clark in the body-cam video at all until a while after he has been shot and is on the ground.)

I am not an expert in the excusable use of police force, but in the videos I don’t see Clark raising anything in the direction of the police officers or otherwise appearing to pose an immediate threat to them; I only see him being shot many times, apparently even after he already has fallen to the ground.

In the police helicopter video, before he is shot by the two cops it certainly looks like Clark isn’t up to any good, but running from police, probably especially if you are a black man, isn’t in and of itself indicative that you are dangerous and/or criminal; it always could be that you’re simply scared of being shot 20 times.

And even if Clark is guilty of having committed property crimes, there are penalties for that — and those penalties don’t include summary execution.

And it’s probably fair to say that many if not most white (and many other non-white) people do need to learn that human life — all human life — is far more important than is fucking property.

All of that said, it largely to totally has been ignored in the local protests over Stephon Clark’s shooting death that one of the cops who shot him — and the city’s police chief — are black. And I have to suspect that that’s because those two pieces of information aren’t convenient to the narrative that it’s only ever white cops and white chiefs of police who unjustly shoot and who support the unjust shootings of black men.

Sacramento has had some localized protests since Clark’s death, but it’s not at all like the city has been shut down, and to my knowledge not one person even has been hospitalized because of the protests. So it’s not like Sacramento has been enveloped in a conflagration, and many more Sacramentans have been touched by the heavy local media coverage than those who actually have been touched by any of the localized protests.

And again, I have to wonder if that outcome might have been different — if the protests might even have turned deadly — if Sacramento’s police chief weren’t black and if one of the two cops who shot Clark weren’t black. Does the race of the actors, rather than the acts themselves, matter that much? I suspect that it does.

Nonetheless, we need to continue to have the discussion about race and policing, and we have to examine where racism and police culture overlap, because very apparently there is a police culture that all cops can get sucked into, regardless of their race, and very apparently part of that police culture is the underlying belief that black lives do not matter as much as do white (and other non-black) lives.

And unnecessary police shooting after unnecessary police shooting amply proves that we must develop — and require the use of — non-lethal ways of neutralizing those we suspect of having committed a crime and/or of being about to commit a crime.

And for fuck’s sake we must stop executing people on the spot for property crimes, and we must hold every human being’s life as sacred. And we must prosecute — really prosecute — cops who don’t value human life, just as we prosecute the criminals who don’t value human life.

If we learn nothing else from the case of Stephon Clark, we need to learn that much.

*Since almost everyone in the world but I carries a smartphone, it seems to me that cops now have complete immunity to mistake or “mistake” smartphones for hand-held weapons. That is something with which we must as a society grapple — and fix.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Jonathan Chait got it mostly right on the toxic identity politics of today

Jonathan Chait's epic race fail: How a story about racism and Obama goes horribly wrong

Left-of-center writer Jonathan Chait has committed the sin of telling the truth about our self-appointed political-correctness police, those who use their membership within an historically victimized and oppressed group to victimize and oppress others (men, mostly, and mostly white men, but sometimes white women as well). It indeed in so many quarters is open season on all white males, who are deemed automatically to be oppressors and victimizers because of their immutable characteristics of being male and being white. (As a gay white male, my non-heterosexuality gives me only so much cover for being a member of a class of victims, as homophobes widely consider homosexuality to be mutable. [Of course, it doesn’t fucking matter whether it’s mutable or not; we all should have the freedom to express ourselves sexually as we please, as long as we do so consensually.])

New York magazine writer Jonathan Chait started a shitstorm when he wrote about toxic PC (political correctness) police. Had he been completely wrong, he probably would have been ignored, but since he spoke so much unflattering truth, I’m one of only a handful of Internet commentators who have yet to comment on his comments.

First off, it’s necessary to describe the environment in which all of us Americans operate: to such a large degree stupid white men (emphasis there on “stupid”) still rule, as evidenced by the popularity of “American Sniper.” Not only is the Clint Eastwood film still No. 1, despite Eastwood’s penchant for talking to a vacant chair (actually, for “American Sniper’s” target audience, I’m sure that was in Eastwood’s favor), but the book American Sniper is No. 1 on amazon.com, and in amazon.com’s top-100-selling book titles there are no fewer than four different versions of the same fucking book (as I type this sentence) — plus an apparent knock-off book about yet another American sniper called The Reaper.

So mindless, blind worship of stupid, murderous (or at least violent or at least aggressive) white men widely misconstrued as “heroes” continues. (This could be its own blog piece, and indeed, was going to be, but I’ll get it over with here: “American sniper” Chris Kyle, who died by the sword as he lived by the sword, was no “hero.” He was part of an illegal and immoral occupying force in Iraq. As part of that illegal and immoral occupying force, he slaughtered a bunch of people who were, at least in their own eyes, defending their nation from a foreign occupying force [duh]. As Iraq had posed zero threat to the United States, as Iraq had not killed any Americans and had had no capability of killing Americans en masse [yeah, those Iraqi “WMDs” claimed by the war criminals who comprised the illegitimate Bush regime have yet to be found], there is no valid argument that Kyle was “protecting our freedoms” or some other jingoistic, Nazi-like bullshit. Kyle very apparently just really, really liked to slaughter people, and if he were Muslim instead of “Christian” and weren’t taking the big dirt nap, he probably would be a member of ISIS right now, slaughtering people left and right with gleeful abandon.)

So that is the nasty backdrop (part of it, anyway) against which those of us who aren’t stupid white men (again, emphasis on “stupid,” not on “white” or on “men”) or one of their worshipers must live in the United States of America.

That is the kind of background and context that Jonathan Chait’s piece is largely if not wholly missing, and I fault him for that fairly glaring omission, as well as for apparently not having allowed his piece to gestate long enough before birthing it upon the nation. (I often if not usually let something gestate for at least a few days before I finally give birth to it, such as this piece.) Further, the gravity of the topic — political correctness (which falls under the umbrella of identity politics) — could merit its own book, so no magazine article or blog piece (not even this one) could do it more than partial justice.

But Chait describes fairly well the phenomenon in which so many members of historically oppressed groups identify so much with being oppressed (whether these members as individuals actually have been very oppressed as individuals themselves or not) that they are hyper-vigilant about any signs of oppression.

Seriously — it used to be that people were just oppressed. And oppression was a bad thing. You didn’t want to be oppressed.

Now, being a member of an historically oppressed group is très chic. And apparently maintaining your membership in your très-chic group of oppressed people means constantly finding fresh meat, fresh new examples of how you have been oppressed, so if there aren’t any actual examples of how you have been oppressed, you’ll wildly exaggerate or even fabricate such “examples.”

Since you haven’t been (very) oppressed yourself lately, you’ll gladly piggy-back on to others’ (real or exaggerated or fabricated) oppression. That’s always fun.

If you didn’t jump on the Michael Brown bandwagon, for instance, to many that means that you are a white supremacist who supports the gunning down of black men, especially young black men, by white fascist cops who enjoy killing black men.

Never mind that it still remains quite unsettled as to whether or not Michael Brown actually went for the cop’s gun before the cop shot him dead. The cop claims that Brown did, and not only was the cop not indicted by a grand jury (which, indeed, might have been a bogus process), but the U.S. Department of Justice also declined to bring charges against the cop for civil-rights violations (granted, proving a civil-rights violation can be a high bar to clear, I know from personal experience).

It’s disturbing that so many people jumped to conclusions and have held fast to them. If your identity politics is that of the oppressed black American, then of course Michael Brown was innocent, a “gentle giant,” and was gunned down by whitey primarily if not solely for his race, and if your identity politics is that of the right-wing white person whose worldview at least verges on white supremacy if it isn’t already fully there, then of course Brown was a thug (and the phrase “black thug” would be redundant) and of course the white police officer only did what he had to do.

Either Brown went after the cop’s gun or he did not. (If I went after a cop’s gun, I’d expect to get shot.) The cop, under our existing (deeply flawed) legal structure, used deadly force against Brown legally or he did not. But whatever actually happened on that August day in Ferguson, Missouri, has little to nothing to do with identity politics, yet for many if not most Americans, their identity politics dictates the “facts.” That’s scary.

(The Eric Garner case, as I have written, at the bare minimum was a clear-cut case of manslaughter by the thuggish white cop, and, entirely unlike the Brown case, we have video of Garner incident, so “I can’t breathe” is an apt slogan of protest, whereas I never was on board with the “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” meme because there is no evidence that Brown ever put his hands up in surrender — there are only biased claims that he did.)

The case of Woody Allen, too, also wasn’t about the actual knowledge of actual facts but was about identity politics.

Women whom Rush Limbaugh might call “femi-Nazis” have asserted that of course Mia Farrow, being a woman, told the truth that Allen had molested their adopted daughter, even though the allegation came during a nasty custody battle — and that of course Allen, being a man, was guilty as charged. Never mind that none of us was there and has any actual knowledge of what did or what did not happen; we have only the claims and counter-claims of the members of a deeply broken family whose dirty laundry has been scattered all over the public square.

This is some highly toxic shit.

The case of Bill Cosby, though, and that of Arnold “Baby Daddy” Schwarzenegger when he was running for California governor in a bullshit recall election in 2003 that had amounted to a do-over election since the bumbling Repugnican candidate had lost the election in 2002: When several women have come forward publicly to state that a man has sexually harassed or sexually assaulted them, to call all of them liars (as so many did to the at-least six women who came forward about the past deeds of the future Gov. Groper) very most often is a misogynist, patriarchal thing to do.

I have little to no doubt in my mind that Bill Cosby (and Baby Daddy Schwarzenegger) serially sexually harassed and sexually assaulted women.

But actual victimization is diminished when victimization is falsely claimed or is claimed whether or not there is any evidence to support the claim of victimization — usually out of identity politics. Perversely, many if not even most members of an historically oppressed group very apparently want the latest example of possible victimization (such as the shooting death of Michael Brown) to be true victimization because, in their eyes, it strengthens their political power as claimants of oppression.

It’s perverse that oppression has morphed from something that no one wanted into something that so many cherish to the point that they’ll happily fabricate it if they deem that to do so will advance themselves somehow.

(In his piece, Chait correctly notes that “It [identity politics and its concomitant claims of perpetual and ubiquitous victimhood] also makes money. Every media company knows that stories about race and gender bias draw huge audiences, making identity politics a reliable profit center in a media industry beset by insecurity.” Indeed, both Slate.com and Salon.com, two of my favorite websites, have resident identity-politics writers, taking the feminist and the black angles, mostly, and I routinely read these writers’ pieces, and often if not usually I agree with them [Slate.com’s Jamelle Bouie rocks], but sometimes, yeah, it’s apparent that they’re really milking it. [Sorry, Salon.com’s Brittney Cooper, but in his article Chait calls you out on your frequent hysteria and hyperbole fairly fairly.])

This professional “victimhood,” is, I suspect, what has eaten at Chait, but that he perhaps did not articulate well enough in his now-infamous article.

And of his article, this paragraph, I think, is the money shot:

If a person who is accused of bias attempts to defend his intentions, he merely compounds his own guilt. (Here one might find oneself accused of man/white/straightsplaining.) It is likewise taboo to request that the accusation be rendered in a less hostile manner. This is called “tone policing.” If you are accused of bias, or “called out,” reflection and apology are the only acceptable response — to dispute a call-out only makes it worse. There is no allowance in p.c. culture for the possibility that the accusation may be erroneous. A white person or a man can achieve the status of “ally,” however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue. A community, virtual or real, that adheres to the rules is deemed “safe.” The extensive terminology plays a crucial role, locking in shared ideological assumptions that make meaningful disagreement impossible.

The emphasis there is mine. In the most rabid “p.c. culture,” indeed, “There is no allowance … for the possibility that the accusation [of an act of oppression or victimization] may be erroneous.” Within this toxic, tightly closed-off atmosphere, facts and evidence have no place at all; the politics of group identity rules supreme. Woody Allen molested his adopted daughter. Period. If you disagree with this, then you hate women and/or you are a pedophile yourself. Michael Brown was a “gentle giant” (never mind the very inconvenient video footage of him roughing up a convenience store clerk while he stole cigarillos from him on the day of his death) who was gunned down in cold blood by a white supremacist police officer. Period. If you disagree with this, then you are a white supremacist.

And indeed, as Chait writes, “A white person or a man can achieve the status of ‘ally,’ however, if he follows the rules of p.c. dialogue.” Yup. That means going along with all manner of blatantly bullshit groupthink in order to get along, lest you be called a misogynist or racist/white supremacist or worse.

The goal of “p.c. culture” as it stands today indeed so often seems to be to push all white men into a corner, indeed, to destroy all white men or, minimally, to make all white men feel perpetually guilty (and thus perpetually disempowered) because, of course, merely by their having been born white and male, they inherently are the evil victimizers and oppressors of others (of women and of black people, mostly, but of other groups, too, of course). It’s not their individual deeds that make white males automatically-guilty victimizers and oppressors, but their mere membership within the group of white males, you see.

This is the sorry state of affairs even though the origin of “p.c. culture” was the fact that white men were pushing too many others into a corner due to those others’ immutable differences from white men, and pushing others into a corner based upon their immutable differences from oneself is a bad thing to do.

To such a large degree, the victims (well, in so many cases, the “victims”) have become the victimizers, and today the victims don’t even have to be actual victims to call themselves victims, and their actual victimization of others isn’t victimization because they are victims, and a victim cannot also be a victimizer, you see.

Get it? These are the new rules.

These new rules have got to go.

Jonathan Chait got it (mostly) right, which is why we’ve seen the reaction to him that we’ve seen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

News flash: Thug-cops (and those who love them) get other cops killed

Patrick Lynch, head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, speaks during a news conference after the bodies of two fallen NYPD police officers were transported from Woodhull Medical Center, Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014, in New York. An armed man walked up to two New York Police Department officers sitting inside a patrol car and opened fire Saturday afternoon, killing one and critically wounding a second before running into a nearby subway station and committing suicide, police said. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Associated Press photo

Ironically, the likes of New York City cops’ union president Patrick Lynch, who, steeped in his big-mouthed white-male privilege, probably would defend every and any murder by cop, is much more likely to get cops killed than are anti-thug-cop demonstrators or progressive New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Lynch is shown above braying at a news conference in New York City yesterday after two city cops were shot to death by an apparently mentally ill young black man, who beforehand had posted online, “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.”)

That two New York police officers were ambushed and shot to death yesterday by a young black man apparently claiming that it was retribution for the deaths of the unarmed black men Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of white cops is deeply unfortunate. But the politicization of the murders by the staunch, shameless defenders of white-male privilege and abuse of power, such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Patrick Lynch, the aptly-surnamed president of the city’s Patrolmen’s “Benevolent” Association, compounds the misfortune.

To be clear, first and foremost, when one human being kills another by gun, unless the killing is in actual self-defense and/or in actual defense of another, the person who pulled the trigger is to blame. And in a case like the ambush of the two New York cops (whose names were Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40), we must assume, I think, that the trigger man, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who went on to shoot himself to death after he murdered the two cops, was mentally ill (duh). (It’s not being widely reported, from what I can tell, but before Brinsley shot the two police officers yesterday, he had shot and injured his ex-girlfriend, so his state of mind yesterday went beyond anti-cop sentiment, apparently.)

But in this case, if we must blame someone other than the apparently mentally ill trigger man, as Lynch and Giuiliani have blamed anti-thug-cop demonstrators, progressive New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, then I pick Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City thug-cop who killed Eric Garner — on video. There is some amount of blood, methinks, on his choke-holding hands.

Given that Pantaleo’s murder of Eric Garner happened in New York City, I assume that that murder by cop had more of an immediate influence on Ismaaiyl Brinsley than did the more distant killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri (which, as I have written, I cannot conclude was a murder by cop, but the Garner case is pretty fucking clear-cut).

White cops’ reactions to the push-back for the killings of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, et. al., and their reaction to the murder yesterday of two of their own starkly reveals their dangerous, fascistic mentality for all of us to plainly see. (Indeed, they’re too fucking stupid and too over-privileged to even try to sugarcoat their not-so-crypto-Nazi-like mentality.)

As Salon.com’s Joan Walsh accurately put it recently, Patrick Lynch and others like him very apparently believe that cops, especially white cops, are apart from and above the rest of us (as well as apart from and above the law), and that they should be fairly wholly immune from civilian oversight, since we stupid civilians who pay their paychecks couldn’t possibly know anything about policing, but should leave every micro-detail of every matter to the mostly-white cops. We clueless civvies should shut the fuck up, keep our tax dollars flowing to the cops, and not worry our pretty, stupid little heads about anything that the cops, who are wholly beyond reproach, do (or fail to do).

The bottom line is this: Cops who refuse to obey democratically elected civilian rule (unless they are given patently unlawful orders) should be removed from duty. Immediately.

The New York cops who have taken to turning their backs to Mayor Bill de Blasio in his presence are not simply exercising any First-Amendment rights that they might possess in their capacity as police officers. They are announcing that they, in their estimation, reserve the right to refuse to submit to civilian authority when they deem such authority is a threat to their out-sized white-male privilege.

To me, it is little different for New York thug-cops (most of whom are steeped in white-male privilege) to turn their backs to their democratically elected mayor because they disagree with his political viewpoints than it would be for members of the U.S. military to turn their backs to the democratically elected president of the United States of America because they disagree with his or her political viewpoints.

Given cops’ training and resources (that, of course, wouldn’t be possible without the tax dollars of us stupid civvies) — and given cops’ veneer of probable innocence in every killing that they commit — rogue cops are much more dangerous than is the typical street criminal, and we stupid civvies allow rogue cops to proliferate at our own peril.

This is a growing cancer that we need to cut out right now.

Patrick Lynch, who advocates the insurrection of New York City’s police officers against their democratically elected civilian oversight, should step down or be removed from his position of authority that he abuses. How Lynch apparently has the support of his fellow cops when his words and actions only inflame tensions between cops and the public — thus putting cops at even further risk — eludes me, other than that an awful lot of cops must just be so fucking stupid as to participate in a deeply dysfunctional dynamic that increases the likelihood of even their own deaths at the hands of an enraged public.

(Yes, indeed, in addition to the likes of Daniel Pantaleo, I blame the likes of Patrick Lynch also for the deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, since Lynch so steadfastly publicly has stood behind the indefensible Pantaleo. Liu and Ramos, unfortunately, very apparently paid the price for the likes of the thuggish Pantaleo and Lynch.)

In the meantime, we, the people, must not shrink, and must never shrink, in the face of the abuses of power by our mostly-white-male cops. It is unfortunate that two New York City cops were gunned down yesterday by an apparently mentally ill young man. But the lives of cops are not more valuable than are the lives of civilians, as the thug-cops believe and wish all of us simple-minded civvies to believe.

The murders of Ramos and Liu yesterday are no excuse to stop the work that has begun to ensure that our law-enforcement officers nationwide, most of them steeped in their white-male over-privilege, do not abuse their power.

Indeed, the thug-cops’ public reaction to all that has been taking place over the past several months demonstrates that we, the people, cannot stop now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cop in Garner death should be tried for homicide

This is a grab from a video showing thuggish New York cop Daniel Pantaleo putting a forbidden chokehold on Eric Garner in New York City in July, causing Garner’s death, according to both a medical examiner and a forensic pathologist. Yet Pantaelo’s “punishment” thus far has been only desk duty.

While there isn’t enough evidence — just conflicting testimony — in the August death by cop of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to ascertain whether the state grand jury got it right or not, a New York grand jury’s failure to indict New York police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July death of Eric Garner is fucking mind-blowing.

On July 17, Pantaleo put the 43-year-old Garner in a chokehold, reportedly for Garner’s resistance to being arrested for having illegally sold cigarettes. However, Garner’s resistance to being arrested, if there was such resistance, apparently was only verbal, not physical, and nor did he try to flee the scene.

Therefore, Pantaleo’s chokehold appears to be a textbook case of police brutality.

A bystander’s video of the interaction between Garner and cops that went viral shows several cops holding Garner down on the ground (including Pantaleo, holding Garner’s head down to the pavement), while Garner repeatedly pleads, “I can’t breathe!”

Garner, who reportedly had asthma, died — perhaps of asphyxia from status asthmaticus, which could be caused not only from a chokehold, but from the physical and emotional shock of suddenly being manhandled and dog-piled upon like he was.

In any event, while Pantaleo’s shameless fucking defenders blame Garner’s pre-existing health condition for his death — a textbook example of blaming the victim — a medical examiner and a forensic pathologist both concluded that Garner’s cause of death was homicide (death caused by another human being, in this case, by Pantaleo).

Video of Garner’s chokehold takedown went viral, and, as The Associated Press notes, “A second video surfaced that showed police and paramedics appearing to make no effort to revive Garner while he lay motionless on the ground. He later died at a hospital.”

“I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves,” Pantaleo reportedly stated in a written statement. “It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner.”

Regardless of what Pantaleo’s intention was, his unnecessary, thuggish chokehold predictably could have caused harm or even death, and therefore, in my book, he at least is guilty of negligent homicide or manslaughter. Chokeholds, after all, are banned by New York police policy. Pantaleo clearly violated the establish standards and norms for his job –– we have the video proof of that fact — and because of that, someone died.

Pantaleo should have to pay the price for that, and his merely being put on desk duty is nowhere near justice in this case. Those paramedics and police who also failed to do their duty to Garner also should be punished. Minimally, their fitness to remain in their jobs should be ascertained.

I hope that Garner’s survivors sue the holy living shit out of Pantaleo, and I hope that the feds bring about the justice that the New York grand jury did not.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Is Ferguson a symptom of black American panic?

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Notes on the mess in Ferguson

robberystrongarmedrobbery2.jpg

A screen grab (above) from a video apparently showing Michael Brown roughing up a convenience store clerk on the date of Brown’s shooting death by a white police officer apparently belies the idea of Brown having been a gentle giant, at least on the day of his death, but of course the unarmed Brown didn’t deserve to die for allegedly having stolen cigarillos. And law enforcement officers need to adopt non-lethal means of subduing subjects they deem dangerous or possibly dangerous, and of course we have way too many white cops shooting unarmed black men. All of that said, though, shit like torching police cars, as was done in Ferguson, Mo., last night (see news photo below), accomplishes exactly nothing.

A man runs from a police car that is set on fire after a group of protesters vandalize the vehicle after the announcement of the grand jury decision Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo. A grand jury has decided not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed, black 18-year-old whose fatal shooting sparked sometimes violent protests. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Associated Press photo

I’ve yet to write about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., for several reasons, including the fact that I wanted to wait for things to play out and the fact, to be honest, that I’ve been Fergusoned out, much like I’ve been Benghazi’d out. Not to compare the two (one is an event that is a symptom of our broad and deep societal ills, and the other a comparative non-event drummed up by the right wing), but because the sensationalist media have beaten both into the ground.

First: Let’s acknowledge, as taboo as it is to do so (on the left, anyway), that Michael Brown apparently was no angel. There very apparently is surveillance video, for fuck’s sake, of the 6-foot-4-inch, almost 300-pound 18-year-old (whose nickname apparently was “Big Mike”) very apparently roughing up a convenience store clerk on the day that he later was shot and killed by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson (that day was August 9), and Wilson has claimed that when he encountered Brown, Brown had a handful of cigarillos that he’d apparently stolen from the convenience store.

(Whether this is true or whether Wilson was lying in an attempt to retroactively “justify” his shooting of Brown by trying to link Brown to a crime that Wilson has claimed he had been aware of is quite in dispute. [It seems to me that it’s quite possible that Wilson had had no knowledge of the convenience-store robbery before he encountered Brown on that fateful day in August, and if memory serves, early news reports [such as this one] indeed were that Wilson had not known about the convenience-store robbery when he encountered Brown.])

I’m no angel myself, but the exact number of times that I’ve roughed up a convenience store clerk while stealing from him is, um, zero. As there not only is surveillance video, but as Michael Brown’s companion on that fateful day, Dorian Johnson, apparently also has testified that Brown committed the convenience-store robbery (to Johnson’s surprise), that Brown committed the crime is, methinks, fairly indisputable, and it is not “character assassination” to divulge unflattering facts about Brown’s unflattering actions on that day, as Brown’s defenders have alleged. Brown’s character, at least as it was on that particular day, it seems to me, rather speaks for itself. On that day, anyway, very apparently, Brown was no gentle giant.

But: Did Michael Brown deserve to get capped, even if he had committed a crime? Brown was unarmed, and photos of Darren Wilson’s “injuries” allegedly caused by Brown show only some red marks (maybe one light facial bruise) that appear as though they even could have been pre-existing. (Wilson, by the way, is 6 feet, 4 inches tall, weighs around 210 pounds and is 28 years old.)

The fact that it’s verging on the year 2015 and despite all of our technological advances we still have no widely used non-lethal way of effectively subduing those whom law enforcement officers deem need to be subdued is testament to what degree life (especially non-white life) is considered to be cheap here in the United States of America.

Sure, we have Tasers, but those are good for only a limited range, and whenever cops claim, correctly or incorrectly, truthfully or untruthfully, that they feared for their lives, they don’t use Tasers or the like, but they use live rounds. With all of our technological advances, why do we allow this beyond-sorry state of affairs to continue? Why don’t we care enough to force the cops to change their tactics?

And, of course, it’s inarguable that black men are treated as automatically guilty by many if not even most white cops, who often act as judge, jury and even executioner, and that cops disproportionately are white males, like Darren Wilson.

It’s also inarguable that Ferguson is just the tip of the iceberg. The main function of cops is to protect the socioeconomic interests of the plutocrats, the ruling elite. Cops serve and protect, all right, but whom do they serve and protect? Cops are tools of the elite, whether the cops know this or not, and whether the cops even care if they do know this.

So there is that dynamic that’s baked into the socioeconomic dynamics of the United States, as well as is the dynamic of institutionalized racism.

That said, while institutionalized racism rages on, we still must view every incident as an incident, with its unique details and factors and with its unique, individual actors, and we have to be careful not to allow individuals to become standard-bearers or stand-ins for our own views on race.

Just as Michael Brown apparently was no angel, I’m sure that Darren Wilson is no angel, either, and so to see black Americans portray Brown as what he apparently wasn’t (an innocent angel) and to see white Americans portray Wilson as what he probably isn’t (a “hero” who was just doing his job and protecting himself from a dangerous thug) has been disappointing, to put it mildly, because this is much more about sticking up for one’s own race than it is about any respect for the truth.

Indeed, the Ferguson case has been turned into a race war, in which Brown has been the proxy for black Americans and Wilson the proxy for white Americans – to the point that the grand jury’s decision, to many if not most Americans, apparently was supposed to go far, far beyond the very specific events surrounding Wilson’s shooting of Brown on August 9 in Ferguson, and was supposed to be a decision, a judgment, on whether or not American cops (most of them white) on the whole treat black American males unjustly, or even, more broadly, on whether or not the United States still has problems with racism.

That’s an understandable misunderstanding, I suppose, but it is a huge misunderstanding of the purpose of the grand jury nonetheless.

There was or there was not enough evidence to show that Wilson, in his capacity as a law enforcement officer, probably illegally shot Brown. (If the laws governing this question are fucked, that’s something else, and if the laws are fucked [and they are], then we need to change the laws.) That, however, was what the grand jury was to have decided: whether or not Wilson probably violated the letter of the law. That was the only job of the grand jury, and it was a narrow job.

And neither you nor I was there when Wilson shot Brown, which is another reason that I’ve yet to write about Ferguson until now: Most of us have an opinion on an event that we didn’t even witness, and for which we have only significantly different claims from different parties as to what did (and did not) transpire. Lacking that specific information, we fill the vacuum with our own opinions and prejudices and our biases that stem primarily from our own racial-group identity. Which is a sort of mob mentality.

Speaking of which, lobbing rocks and bricks and bottles and Molotov cocktails and smashing store-front windows and setting cars and buildings ablaze, while perhaps loads of fun for the participants, doesn’t do anything, that I can tell, to even begin to change the entrenched socioeconomic ills that plague the nation, the socioeconomic ills that are behind Michael Brown’s death.

I’m not staunchly against the use of violence as a political tactic – the plutocrats, our overlords, certainly never rule out the use of violence against us commoners, so we commoners never should rule out the use of violence against our plutocratic overlords, either – but violence, if used, should be strategic and it should get results. I don’t see that vandalizing store fronts and blocking roads and even setting businesses and other buildings and cars, including cop cars, ablaze do anything to even begin to change our corrupt system.

While the sources of the rage that induce individuals to take it to the streets are entirely understandable – those sources include institutionalized racism, ridiculous socioeconomic inequality from an economic system (capitalism) that is all about screwing others over for one’s own selfish gain, and the police state that we live under that protects and preserves this ridiculous socioeconomic inequality and institutionalized racism – again, I don’t see that the tactics that most of the enraged use on the streets actually are effective in bringing about real change.

Our fascistic, plutocratic overlords don’t exactly quake in their jackboots at the specter of small businesses having their front windows smashed out, and of course if a police car is torched, it is we, the taxpayers (which doesn’t include the tax-evading plutocrats), who will pay to replace that police car, of course. What do the plutocrats lose in these cases?

The plutocrats are perfectly willing to sacrifice a small, token amount in periodic property damage in order to perpetuate their ongoing socioeconomic rape, pillage and plunder of the masses and of the planet itself. (And it goes without saying, of course, that our plutocratic overlords are entirely untroubled by the periodic shootings of black men by white cops. After all, thus far the responses to these shootings, while they gain plenty of media coverage, haven’t threatened in any serious way the plutocrats’ iron grip on wealth and power.)

Finally, we Americans need to recognize that it wasn’t only Darren Wilson who killed Michael Brown. Almost all of us killed Michael Brown. (Ditto for Trayvon Martin, as I have stated, and for many others.) Because we have continued to allow the inexcusable bullshit to continue, and as long as we continue to do so, as long as we continue to refuse to dive more deeply than the surface (such as by looking primarily or even solely at race and not nearly enough at class, and by failing to effectively hold accountable the plutocratic puppet masters who always are hiding behind the scenes and thus always get away scot-free), and as long as we continue to refuse to do the long, hard, sustained work of making – of forcing, if necessary – significant systemic changes (yes, including up to true revolution [“reform” always leaves the power structure intact, doesn’t it?]), there will be plenty of more Michael Browns and Darren Wilsons.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized