In 1946, in Georgia, a mob lynched 4 Black men. That event led to the desegregation of the military, and arguably set the stage for the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1981, in Alabama, Michael McDonald was randomly selected and lynched.
In 1998 James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death in Texas.
These were horrible acts of violence. Thankfully in each case some degree of justice was enacted. But these are not isolated events. And they are reinforced by actions of a group in America that should never be tolerated. Police officers.
There is a pattern in America that has been accepted and hidden by the news media for far too long. In each occurrence it is passed off as an individual act and unrelated. I disagree. I believe we need to bring these connected events to light.
In 1991 Rodney King was beaten by 4 officers with excessive force. This was one of the first times such an action by police was seen by the public, as the event had been videotaped by a bystander. Even with this evidence a jury essentially slapped the wrists of the officers involved. This lead to riots in 1992.
Since that time several other events have been video taped with the media less willing to give it public attention. One of the most recent was the execution-style murder of Oscar Grant, in Oakland California on New Years Day 2009.
The killing of Grant was witnessed by at least a dozen witnesses. Grant was unarmed, on the ground face down, with an officer on his back, and was not resisting arrest. He was shot 1 time in the back at point blank range, killing him. The entire incident, some 4 minutes long, was caught on multiple cameras. It took 14 days for the officer firing the shot to be charged with a crime. The incident reached the national media 2x (an ABC news 30 second video clip and the opening memo on the O’Reilly Factor), both focused on the riots that occurred a week after the event.
On that same day, Robbie Tolan was shot in his driveway, while on the ground, in Texas. Robbie Tolan has been a minor league baseball player, was unarmed, and coming home from getting fast food when he was confronted by police. He currently has a bullet lodged in his liver. The officer in question has not been charged to date, though an investigation appears to still be underway.
Again on that same day, in New Orleans, Adolph Grimes was shot at 48 times, and struck 14, by 9 police officers. 12 of the 14 shots struck Grimes in the back. There is no clear explanation of why Grimes was shot at, or how he was struck so many times in the back. At this time no charges are pending any officer involved, though an investigation is said to be underway.
In 2008, Philadelphia, 19 police officers surround and beat 3 men. The officers believed the men might have been suspects from a shooting earlier that night. The men, not resisting arrest and unarmed, are kicked and beaten while lying on the ground. The result of this unquestionable act of police brutality enacted on African Americans is 4 officers fired, 3 suspended, and 1 demotion. No charges were brought.
Sean Bell, and 2 other passengers in his car, were shot at 51 times in NYC in 2006 by 5 police officers. None of the men were armed. Sean Bell died, the other surviving men were critically wounded at the time. None of the police officers were found guilty of wrong-doing.
Also in 2006, in Atlanta, Kathryn Johnston (age 92) was shot by 3 officers and killed. The officers entered the home with a no-knock warrant – prying off burglar alarms and breaking down the door – Johnston fired a shotgun once in the ceiling. No officer was injured by Johnston. Police fired 39 shots and hit Johnston 6 times. A failed cover-up of the incident included false claims of Johnston being a drug dealer. It was later proven that the Atlanta police routinely lied to get warrants All 3 officers that shot Johnston have been found guilty.
In 2005, in New Orleans, Robert Davis was beaten by 4 officers (2 of which were in fact federal agents). This incident was videotaped by the Associated Press, during which one of the newsmen was physically assaulted for videotaping the event. The federal agents were never charged. 2 officers were fired and 1 received a 120 suspension. 1 officer was cleared of all charges by a judge.
In 2004, NYC, Timothy Stansbury Jr. opened a rooftop door and was shot and killed by a police officer. He was unarmed. The shooting violated police procedure. The officer was never charged.
In 2001, in Ohio, Timothy Thomas was shot and killed by a police officer. The initial statement by the officer was that his gun accidentally went off. He then later stated that Thomas, wanted on non-violent charges, had a gun. He later revised the statement that he believed Thomas was reaching for a gun. Thomas in fact was unarmed, and is believed to have been holding up his baggy pants. The officer was not charged.
In 1999, in NYC, Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by 4 police officers outside of his home. He was unarmed. At least one of the shots to Diallo was fired through the bottom of his foot, meaning he was lying on the ground when the shot was fired. None of the police officers involved were found to have committed a crime.
1998, in New Jersey, State police officers fired 11 shots at Danny Reyes and 3 passengers in the van. 3 of the men in the van, including Reyes, were shot. Reyes was hit 4 times, and was unarmed, as were all the men in the vehicle. All the men were on the way to professional basketball tryouts in North Carolina. The State troopers were charged with attempted murder after having initial charges dropped by lower court. I am unaware of any trial date having been set or occurring to date.
In 1997, in New York City, 4 officers arrested Abner Louima on questionable charges at an incident not originally involving him. When Louima was brought to the police station the officers proceeded to beat Louima with fists, nightsticks, police radios, and then sodomized him with a plunger. The entire event was attempted to be covered up by multiple police officers in the police station. 2 officers received time in jail, 3 other officers had convictions overturned and never served time.
I mention all of these events for 1 reason. They are not separate. They are all related. This is a pattern that has been occurring since before the 20th century started. It happens across the nation. And it could happen to your brother, sister, mother, father, children or yourself.
Police officers are routinely given carte blanche to violently act against African Americans without cause. Even when that action results in death, or extreme unjustifiable violence and torture, police are routinely excused.
The media almost invariably ignores these events. Even when presented with evidence from independent sources. Right this second more people in America know of the Florida Caylee Anthony case than all of the above cases (with the exception of perhaps the Rodney King event). While the Anthony case is horrendous, it is an individual act – reported on for a year – whereas we have a pattern of systemic abuse of power allowed by the legal system that remains virtually unseen. And it is anyone’s guess how many other cases of a similar nature occur and are not reported on.
This is unacceptable. This is wrong. We cannot allow this to continue.
The news media must live to its obligation to report on patterns that violate the rights and lives of American citizens. The news media is not an entertainment program, nor does it have the right to ignore facts that affect a huge segment of the nation while trying to garner ad revenue.
The police are employed to protect the rights of all the people. While many do this every day successfully, there are more than enough officers that do not. For every case resulting in the unwarranted death of an unarmed African American how many more cases of lesser violence slip thru the cracks? For every case of violence that catches the local (almost never national) attention how many are unreported, or successfully covered up?
We may never know. Especially if this is allowed to be viewed as individual events that are unrelated. Especially if we cloud our eyes to the fact that officers in these events are routinely placed back on the street, and inevitably train future officers the tactics and mentality they employ.
We need to wake up America. We need to shed light on this subject. We need to make people aware of the danger that exists. Because if 1 Black man can be shot at 51 times without question or repercussion, any man woman or child in the nation could be next.
I present this clothing line, found at www.cafepress.com/nova68, with one thought in mind. Attention to the wrong that is happening right now, in this “post-racial” America. Police cannot murder innocents without concern if they know they will be punished for it. Police departments will not abide criminals wearing a badge if they know that they have the support of the public.
I cannot say that the Never Again, or Stop The Game, clothing lines will prevent another Abner Louima, Kathryn Johnston, or Oscar Grant – but if enough of us have this, wear this in public, open the debate and thus increase awareness it just might. If enough of us can wear this, and it starts people noticing the obvious connected pattern of abuse and death things can be changed. And that change could save the life of a child, a father, a family. This change could save you.
Isn’t that worth it?