Michael Brown protests in Ferguson met with rubber bullets and teargas
Police Brutality: How Can We Stop It?
Let’s face it: Police brutality towards African Americans is rampant. So is the impunity the police are granted when they are caught. There is no justification for the kinds of extreme violence law enforcement employs to ‘subdue’ people. It is out of control. People are being beat up for nothing, some are being killed. We have a moral obligation—all of us—to take action to put a halt to this. People are holding demonstrations and rallies, trying to rein in police departments with civilian review, pursuing individual cases in the courts. But it’s not getting any better. What will it take? How can we respond in a way that will put a stop to this gratuitous violence being done in our name?
Since the Rodney King beating captured on video back in 1991, films of police brutality towards African Americans have become common place. A few recent videos that have gone viral show how questioning a police officer can trigger violent attacks—especially if the questioner is Black. You have to wonder: would these kinds of violent reprisals happened if the person were white?
Last week Eric Garner, 43, was killed in a confrontation with the police. Garner made no resistance beyond asking the police officers to leave him alone; that was enough: he was put in a choke hold by police. He is dead. His offence was questioning the police and asking to be left alone.
On July 1, Marlene Pinnock, 51 was spotted wandering on a freeway near Los Angeles. A highway patrol officer chased her down, tackled her, and beat her brutally. As of July 17, more than two weeks after the attack, she was still hospitalized. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV7lO_1kWfo
A reasonable assumption if someone is wandering on the highway is that something is wrong and the person needs help.
In May, Arizona State University professor Ersula Ore was stopped for jay walking. She questioned the officer and protested his attempts to hand-cuff her. In response, she was physically attacked. She now faces felony charges. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGc3GcnozOE
These attacks are often justified as self-defense. Look closely: In none of the cases was the extreme violence by police triggered by any violent action by the person who was confronted by the police. After being stopped for minor or non-offenses and asking the police to back off, each of these individuals was beaten—one to death. Sadly, these are not isolated incidents but rather part of a pattern of violence toward African Americans. These just happen to be the incidents that made it into the major news outlets, surely a very small fraction of such incidents taking place nationwide.
Born in Boston, Jennifer Yanco grew up in the Pacific Northwest and served four years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Central and West Africa. In 1999, she developed and taught an adult education course, “White People Challenging Racism: Moving from Talk to Action.”