America the beautiful. America the brave. America the great. America the bloody. America the broken. America the depraved.
George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Eric Garner. These are people of color who were murdered by police recently. This list goes on. This list is just the people we know about. There are countless that we have never heard of that have been brushed under the rug to protect law enforcement.
As a white person, I will never truly understand the experience of a black person in this country. I will never be scared to go bird watching in a park. I will never have to be careful not to congregate in large groups in public. I will never have to constantly have a fear of my child or loved one being stopped by police.
However, I do know this. The experience of people of color in this country is one that I would never choose to myself. I don't know many white people that would disagree. If you disagree with this statement you have your head shoved so far into the sand that you can't even see the light of day.
One thing has become clear, especially in light of the recent protests. The institution of the police has become completely out of control. Maybe it always has been, but the rapid militarization of the police in the last 10 years or so has only exacerbated the potential for abuse. The police of today have surveillance equipment. They have military vehicles. They have military grade assault rifles and riot gear. The equipment of police today is almost indistinguishable from a military unit. This shift has happened with nearly zero public oversight. The people did not ask for this. These changes are a culmination of government funded programs as well as police departments' private purchases.
The institution of the police just on concept creates a high potential for abuse. There is little oversight of police departments, and this is a breeding ground for abuse. You have police officers who know that they can get away with atrocities because they are the officials who enforce the law. Anyway, who will stop them? Their buddies back at the station? I hardly think so.
The recent protests over George Floyd's death have brought police brutality to light. There have been many instances where police have committed crimes against peaceful protesters just in the last couple of days.
In many protests across the country tear gas has been used frequently and without much hesitation. The argument could be made that this in itself is an international war crime. Tear gas has been banned since 1925 by way of the Geneva Conventions. This means that it is a crime to use in war. Although these protests are not international conflicts, the Geneva Conventions are still regarded as one of the most important pieces of international humanitarian law. I hardly think it is appropriate for law enforcement to be using it in US communities.
Unfortunately, tear gas is just the start.
In New York City, Police were seen running over protesters with their cruisers.
Louisville- Police confiscated water and milk, and then destroyed it. These items are generally used to flush eyes from tear gas and pepper spray.
Minneapolis- Shot rubber bullets and paint canisters at residents sitting peacefully on the porch of their home.
Atlanta- Stopped two black people in their car, shooting them with tasers and tearing them out of their car without warning. They were just driving.
New York City- Officer tore a protective mask off a black him and pepper sprayed him while the victim stood with his hands over his head.
New York City- Officer used two hands to throw a woman to the ground. Reports say while calling her a "stupid fucking bitch."
New York City- New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie was pepper sprayed and assaulted by NYPD.
Salt Lake City- Police shove an elderly man with a cane while he was walking down the street.
Dallas- Woman coming home with groceries when police fired a projectile at her face. She was not protesting. This was presumed some sort of rubber bullet or pellet.
Washington DC- Peaceful Protesters were tear gassed in front of Lafayette Park in order to clear the crowd so President Trump could get a photo op.
Philadelphia- Police trapped a group of peaceful protesters between a highway and a guard rail. The protesters were then tear gassed. There was no route of escape. Police claimed that protesters rocked a police vehicle back and forth. There was no evidence of this occurring.
Seattle- Child maced by police. She was reportedly peacefully protesting. The original post which has since been taken down identified the child as 9 years old.
Los Angeles- Nine police officers surround a woman and tase her repeatedly.
Los Angeles- A man was arrested while walking down the street after curfew. He was walking home from work.
Los Angeles- Many protesters and citizens going about their day's arrested for unknown reasons.
Hollywood- A group of teenagers was walking down the street and they were shot at with rubber bullets from a police vehicle.
I could keep going but I think you get the point. All incidents I have listed have either photo or video evidence. Most of them are videos. I will not post them here for fear that they may help identify other individuals in the video. I do not want to endanger their well-being as well.
The point of me writing this article is not that all police officers are horrible human beings and bad cops. I know there are good cops that uphold the oath they swore and call out their colleagues for injustices. I know that. For those people, I thank you. Keep doing what you are doing. My point is that there is an institutional problem with the police in the United States. Excessive force is used as a first option. This is especially true for our black communities. Police very rarely use tear gas and riot lines at a white climate change protest. Yet, when there is a protest on racial issues, especially involving the murder of a black man by a police officer, violence is used to stop those protests. It is our right as Americans to protest. This right is regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation. We all have this right as Americans.
The institution of the police have been so tainted by militarization and violence that they no longer represent the people. If there are 900 good cops and 100 bad cops, but the 900 good cops are unwilling to hold the bad cops accountable, then you have 1,000 bad cops. Along that same line, if we know that there are bad cops, how are the People supposed to trust the institution as a whole? How are white people supposed to in good conscience allow the brutalization of their black neighbors. We can't. It is a crime in itself to stand idly while our fellow citizens are suffering.
George Floyd was murdered by police. Derek Chauvin murdered him by kneeling on his neck for nearly 10 minutes. There is no denying this.
This is a very sad time for Americans. This being said, we, especially white people, cannot just turn a blind eye because it is stressful and upsetting. For so long, when something like this happened people were outraged for a short time and then seemed to forget all about it. This cannot be the case this time. The winds of change are blowing. Now is the time to make those winds into a gust. We cannot sit by while citizens are brutalized, beaten, and ignored in this country. It is time to speak up. It is time to scream for change and demand it. Remember this. The government does not control us. We control the government. America was built upon institutional racism. It's time to reverse that. This won't be easy. It is time to fight for what you believe in. I don't have all the answers and solutions. I can't. It takes more than one person to reverse the course or even affect change in something like this. However, I do have some ideas that may help.
1. Demilitarize the Police
This is the first step to stop some atrocities that we have seen during these protests. There is no reason for common police to have access to heavy armaments and assault weapons. There are some operations where these are appropriate, but common police do not need them because they should not be carrying out those operations in the first place. That should be left to specialized agencies with more training. The militarization of the police is what has allowed some of these protests to get out of hand. In most cases, the protests were peaceful until police escalated the situation.
2. Establish Private Non-Government Oversight Agencies
These agencies will serve to provide oversight to any police incidents and behavior. Currently, there is little oversight to police departments. They investigate their own incidents and crimes. This is laughable. Unless there is video evidence they will find themselves innocent nearly every time because it is in their best interest to do so. These outside agencies will be able to better prosecute police officers because the agencies would lack self interest.
3. Extensive Training, Education, and Vetting for All Officers.
Currently, it only takes about 6 months to become an officer of the law. Officers are responsible for enforcing laws and arresting people accordingly. This is a very short time period for any position that has to do with the complicated US law system. In comparison, lawyers have to go to school for 6 years. Education and training should be much closer to 6 years for officers than 6 months. An important distinction between lawyers and police is that officers quite literally hold lives in their hands. Innocent men die at the hands of untrained officers. Until training and education is increased for all new and existing officers we have no reason to trust them with a gun in their hand. Another option is to disarm officers completely although I think this raises some obvious problems. This being said, many countries have done this with success. Gun ownership in the general population is often not as common in those countries. Included in their education should be sensitivity training, community and minority education, and extensive education in the rule of law.
4. Greater Protections for People of Color
This is a topic in which I do not claim to know what the solution is exactly, but I know it is important. A step in the right direction would be designating making a false 911 call on a person of color a hate crime. (Making false 911 calls in general is already illegal.) Choke holds and other types of holds should obviously also be banned.
Black Lives Matter Movement
Black lives matter. They are our neighbors. They are our brothers and citizens and friends and loved ones.
America needs to change.
We need to keep fighting and protesting until it does. We need justice. We need peace. We need a change right now
Keep fighting until you see that change. Keep fighting until every single citizen is seen and treated equally. Keep fighting to make the United States of America a better place.
Fight for Justice.
Fight for Peace.
Fight for Equality.
Fight for Love.
Fight for every single person that has died fighting this same cause.
Fight for George Floyd.
Fight for every black man that has been murdered by police.
This is not an issue that can just go away. We have now come too far not to see the change that is needed. Our government will listen. Our government MUST listen.
There is no other way. We must tear the system that we know down and build a new one that is better. Life must be valued over money. Life must be valued over everything. We all have a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We all have a right to protest tyranny and injustice. George Floyd must be a name we all never forget. Make it mean something.
Protesters, keep fighting.
I am with you.
Let us demand a better tomorrow.