Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Fifty Shades of Gray, Black and Blue

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan.)
     "Running while black is not probable cause. Felony running doesn’t exist, and you can’t arrest someone for looking you in the eye." - Billy Murphy, Gray family attorney

     At first it may look as if the highly suspicious death of Freddy Gray, the 25 year-old African American who was arrested April 12 and died last Sunday morning, will see some satisfactory resolution. After all, Baltimore's police Commissioner is black, the mayor has promised a thorough investigation and six Baltimore officers have been suspended.
     Yet optics in our world are constantly and often deliberately deceptive. While the Baltimore PD has "made some concessions about lack of probable cause", the mystery deepens as to what exactly happened to Gray between the time he was dragged screaming in pain into a police van and when EMS was called a half hour later to the scene after spontaneously suffering a medical emergency in which, it was found, 80% of his spinal cord was severed and he was already in a coma.
     Baltimore police are also clamming up about why exactly he was arrested and deliberately targeted by the Baltimore PD when he, not the police, was obviously in fear for his life or if the switchblade they'd allegedly taken from his pocket was even his. Despite the autopsy having been completed, the ME still has not arrived at a cause of death.
     Only one thing remains clear in these fifty shades of opacity in the wake of yet another police killing: Freddy Gray is dead and the Baltimore Brotherhood, six of whom enjoying a paid vacation, is clamming up.
     It's impossible to see how anyone can still claim with a straight face that we are not living in a police state, one in which a wildly dysfunctional criminal justice system is skewed in favor of said police state and justice for its innocent victims doesn't seem to be a priority. Exhibit A:
     Just yesterday, Officer Dante Servin of the Chicago PD was exonerated of all charges by Judge Dennis Porter  In his ruling, Porter actually said, "Simply put, the evidence presented in this case does not support the charges on which the defendant was indicted and tried. There being no evidence of recklessness as a matter of law, there is no evidence to which the state could sustain its burden of proof... as to involuntary manslaughter. Therefore, there is a finding of not guilty on all counts and the defendant is discharged."
     In 2012, Servin was offduty and sitting in his car when Rekia Boyd, a 22 year-old African American woman, was walking with four friends. Apparently, Servin thought the dark people were being too loud and he told them to keep it down. Then Servin pulled his service pistol and actually fired four shots, over his shoulder, into the crowd of unarmed people and struck and killed Boyd.
     Servin had the nerve to claim he felt his life was in danger when he supposedly saw one of the men reach into his waistband, which is, in our criminal justice system, literally a get or stay out of jail free card. It looked as if it was a slam dunk case for the prosecution for at least reckless manslaughter.
     But then again, the case against Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo were also considered slam dunks.

White Paranoia Trumps Black Innocence

     Porter's decision sets a dangerous precedent for people of color all over the nation, even though a precedent has already clearly been established. Just a week and a half ago, The Washington Post released the findings of a joint study conducted by it and Bowling Green State University. Sticking out like a sore thumb was this horrifying statistic: Less than 1 officer in 1000 reported police killings of civilians resulted in charges (not convictions, charges) of wrongful death. And those thousands of reported shootings go back just a decade.
     Of the tiny fraternity of 54 officers who've been charged with wrongful deaths since 2005, one is now a police chief of a town not 20 miles from the scene of his crime because he was given the chance to plead to a lesser charge and keep a criminal conviction off his record.
     The Washington Post even cited a case of an officer in Cleveland, the same city in which 12 year-old Tamir Rice was gunned down without any chance for compliance, who went completely berserk and fired nearly 50 shots at a car after a chase, killing an unarmed couple. To this day, he's on trial for two counts of voluntary manslaughter.
     Those of you with a sense of history may recall the case of Amidou Diallo, a young New York man of color, who was gunned down by four NYPD officers and shot at no less than 41 times. The officers, too, cited fear of their lives over a phantom gun that never materialized and they were all exonerated.
     Last February, a 57 year-old farmer from India was visiting his relatives in Alabama to help care for his prematurely-born grandchild. Sureshbhai Patel was peacefully walking down the street when a paranoid white man called 911 to say he saw a black man and feared for his wife's safety. It's unclear if he was referring to Patel but when one of the two responding officers saw Patel, he thought he was a black man and threw him so hard to the ground he'd partially paralyzed him. Thankfully, he was fired from the force on the initiative of his Chief and another, Eric Parker, is up on 3rd degree assault charges.
     In the movies, when we see cops brutally beating and killing bad guys and firing dozens of bullets at one target, it's intended mainly for entertainment purposes. In real life, barring the most extreme of situations, real life law enforcement is not supposed to look like a Dirty Harry movie yet it is. And just like the cops in the movies, their real-life analogs often get away with such criminally reckless and public-endangering behavior.
     And it's notable that in the wake of an unjustified police killing, often white authority figures call for the public to remain calm and maintain order while not expecting the police to lead by example.
     The ongoing genocide of black people carried out with horrifying impunity by the thin blue line, this clash of black and blue, is a deepening bruise on the face of America. While white cops fire loaded guns over their shoulders into crowds of innocent people, while they use illegal methods to choke unarmed victims, while self-styled neighborhood watch captains kill children for walking in sundown towns and while white privileged teens get off scot-free on ridiculous defenses such as "affluenza", their black victims are regularly vilified.
     And there is something deeply wrong with a nation with pretensions to unequivocal equality that allows such institutionalized racism to continue virtually unabated.


At April 28, 2015 at 6:36 PM, Blogger Stan B. said...

That's an amazing(ly frightful) statistic cited by the The W. Post.

As to one precedent after another, it's called business as usual...


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