The Officer Who Cried "Resisting"
Eric Garner, Philando Castile, George Floyd: Innocent lives lost despite cameras rolling. Is it even possible to know how many more?
Sixty years following the heinous torture and murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till, news broke in 2017 that Carolyn Bryant, the white woman who initially accused him of making advances at her, fabricated "the most sensational part of her testimony." The statement claiming he grabbed her waist and made verbal advances at her was "not true" according to Carolyn herself in an interview with historian Timothy Tyson.
Details of the initial Till encounter remain disputed however the basics of it is while visiting his relatives in Mississippi, Chicago teen Emmett entered a Grocery and Meat Market which was owned by Carolyn and her husband Roy Bryant. He allegedly wolf-whistled at Carolyn (Emmett had a stutter after recovering from polio when he was five and his mother recounted how any similar sounding whistling could've been from his stuttering) and a few days later, an armed Roy Bryant along with his half-brother J.W. Milam drove to Emmett's great uncle's house where he was staying and abducted him in the early hours of the morning.
The men "made Emmett carry a 75-pound cotton-gin fan to the bank of the Tallahatchie River and ordered him to take off his clothes. [They] then beat him nearly to death, gouged out his eye, shot him in the head and then threw his body, tied to the cotton-gin fan with barbed wire, into the river." His mutilated body was discovered three days later. His corpse was so disfigured that his uncle "could only identify it by an initialed ring."
Bryant and Milam were found not guilty of Emmett's kidnapping and murder by an all-white jury after an hour of deliberation. In a 1956 interview with Look Magazine, Bryant and Milam publicly admitted to Emmett's murder. As they were protected under the double jeopardy law, these perpetrators continued on with their lives. Carolyn Bryant maintains she doesn't remember the rest of the events that occurred in the market on that day.
I bring up Emmett Till's murder because as we have seen time and time and more time and further time again, the initial statements taken from law enforcement involved with the unjust murders of Black people almost always has somewhere sprinkled in there the idea that they were "resisting arrest."
"If they just listened to our instructions, we wouldn't have had to use lethal force. Take our word for it."
Emmett Till whistled at my wife... I mean, he made obscene gestures at her. Actually, he boasted about being with white women -- Trust me: he was saying some really terrible things... Just take my word for it.
With the first three incidents, cameras were recording every single moment of these men's lives and this knowledge did not stop these officers from potentially taking a brief moment to either stop their strangulation or become bewildered at the thought of someone listening to their instructions. They are aware that their victim is not "resisting" in the normal sense of the word, that is, actively attempting to escape arrest or becoming uncontrollably irate that an apparent headlock is the only possible method available to subdue them. They know they're being recorded yet they continually choose to take the Orwellian approach of the Party telling you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears.
"I know the footage they're currently recording incriminates me of choking this individual to death but... That's not what's happening. He's resisting! Why does he continue to resist while I have my arms wrapped around his lifeless body?"
Isn't it a universally accepted ideal that when cameras are rolling, you strive to be on your best behaviour? Is this what the officers' interpretation of "best behaviour" is? Why does there seem to be an acceptance of crying "wolf" morphing into crying "resist, therefore I should have no consequences for any of my actions that lead to wrongful death"? One would assume having imminent access to recording devices should lead to accountability because a video doesn't ask you to take their word for it. Yet despite this availability of being able to witness an objective account of an incident between an officer and their victim, there is still no accountability.
If this is how they choose to act when they know the world is watching, what possible Hell is unleashed upon those who aren't around anyone with a camera? In the days before constant live-streaming and Twitter updates, how many of those "resisting arrest" claims were an accurate summation of what actually happened?
When a group of officers were caught on film in March 1991 repeatedly beating an unarmed Rodney King for fifteen minutes while he was incapacitated on the ground, a jury acquitted three of them and failed to reach a verdict on the fourth one. The results ultimately led to the 1992 LA Riots.
In 2014, a Richmond County grand jury decided not to indict Daniel Pantaleo for the murder of Eric Garner.
Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of all charges in the shooting of Philando Castile in 2017.
On May 25th 2020, three officers stood by as Derek Chauvin forcibly pressed his knee against George Floyd's neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while ignoring the pleas of the dying Floyd under him and the numerous eyewitnesses who were recording, begging to let him breathe.
"Stop flooding up social media with your hashtags! Find another way to protest."
"Stop kneeling during a sports event! Find another way to protest."
"Stop protesting in the streets! Find another way to protest."
The phrase "enough is enough" has honestly been said enough. When protesters are being penalized for standing up for the marginalized, it was enough. When tear gas is being deployed, it was enough. When officers escalate tensions during a Black Lives Matter protest but not when an armed militia stormed government buildings yelling in the faces of law enforcement during the midst of a global pandemic because they viewed mask-wearing as government tyranny, it was enough.
Take the badge out of the equation and it's a man who chose to suffocate another man while his friends stood around refusing to intervene. There needs to be accountability.
The officer who cried "resist" should no longer be the accepted rationale.
Donate what you can. Sign petitions. Protest. Demand justice. Listen to the Black voices whose cries have fallen on deaf ears for far too long.