Tag Archives: Freddie Gray

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Violent, Racist Cops Protect a Violent, Racist System

Racism is complicated. When America’s most brilliant thinkers set out to explain its nature in terms as clear as the English language allows, as Michael Eric Dyson did in his searing July 7th essay “Death in Black and White,” even the relatively sophisticated readers of the New York Times didn’t get it. Commenters didn’t understand that Dyson wasn’t criticizing every white person, but “white America” — shorthand for a dominant power structure that is fundamentally racist while (of course) not every white person is.

If anti-racist white people take writing as straightforward as Dyson’s personally, if they take offense at his passion and so miss his message, is there any hope of “black America” and “white America” just getting along?

It’s been a hell of a week. Two more black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were gunned down by the police under the usual incomprehensible circumstances — events the media, and thus the government, are paying attention to only because someone invented the smartphone. Then a 25-year-old sniper, a veteran of America’s brutal war against Afghanistan, shot 12 police officers at a march in Dallas protesting the deaths in Minnesota and Louisiana. Five died.

Needless to say, the Dallas cops didn’t have it coming. They didn’t have anything to do with what happened in entirely different states.

Well, it shouldn’t need to be said. But it does. Because, no matter how many times we hear public officials tell us that the police protect and serve us, it doesn’t ring true. Three out of four African-Americans tell pollsters they don’t think police are held accountable for their actions. So do 40% of whites.

The truth is, Americans don’t like cops.

Let’s be honest. If we think about them at all, we don’t mourn the slain Dallas police officers as deeply as we did the children who died in the day care center blown up in Oklahoma City, or the nightclubbers murdered in Orlando.

We need to talk about why that is.

We have been hearing more about racial profiling, how blacks are targeted by police officers more than whites, how they are physically assaulted more often, how they are charged with more serious crimes for the same offenses, how they get longer prison sentences and harsher fines. Good. This discussion is long overdue. Way too many people still don’t get it.

It is right and proper to focus on Black Lives Matter. To say it. To believe it. A retort that All Lives Matter is far worse than pabulum. Because it distracts from a point that still hasn’t received proper consideration in the media or in electoral politics, All Lives Matter is racist. Even the first black president has addressed the racism behind police violence only in “it sure is sad, we should do better” niceties rather than meaningful, sweeping policy changes. (He could start with blanket presidential pardons of black inmates serving ridiculously long prison sentences.)     Black Lives Matter. That’s what we need to talk about now. For a good long time, too.

One possible place to start is the reaction of many people to the Dallas sniper attack. Like 9/11, it was shocking. Like 9/11, it also wasn’t surprising. You can’t go on acting like a bully forever. The powers that be can’t pressure their victims forever. Eventually the prey strike back. No, it isn’t justified. Nor is it right. But it is chickens coming home to roost.

Like the Bush Administration after 9/11 (“Why? Why do they hate us?”), the police and the political elites the police actually protects and serves look silly when they pretend that they can’t possibly imagine why anyone might dislike them. “There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement,” President Obama said after Dallas. No justification? Sure.

No possible justification? Before they blew him up with a robot bomb in an extrajudicial assassination (there weren’t any hostages), suspect Micah Johnson told police negotiators that he was “upset about the recent police shootings…[that] he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.” You’d have to be especially thick, or really really white, not to see why a black guy might snap after watching the Alton Sterling and Philando Castile snuff videos.

Obama continued: “Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done.” Naturally, Obama was referring only to justice for the murdered police officers. There’s never any justice for those murdered by police officers (c.f., Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Eric Garner, etc.).

There’s a lot to worry about in all this. As for me, I’m concerned that the true nature of the police, the roots of its brutality in its role as the armed guards of the ruling classes, has been obscured by the racial divide. Racism is real. It’s complicated.

So is class warfare.

Even if you are privileged as I am – white, male, able-bodied, Ivy League-educated – odds are that your interactions, like mine, with the police are generally unpleasant. Mostly, I run into them when they pull me over to give me a ticket. If I’m lucky, they are merely rude, overbearing, aggressive and condescending. Once in a blue moon, a cop manages to be merely gruff. And I’m lucky. I’ve seen the way cops act in black neighborhoods. It’s much, much worse. They’re disgusting.

I had a bad experience with a Los Angeles police officer in 2001. He arrested me for jaywalking — falsely. He roughed me up and handcuffed me. This being America, I couldn’t help wonder whether he might have targeted me because he was black and I was white. But he never said anything that indicated that. Maybe he had a quota to fill.

Black or white, the police are paid to oppress, not protect. Black or white, citizens have good cause to be afraid of them. That’s the nature of the system. It’s another reason the system has got to go.

(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out July 19th and is now available for pre-order.)

 

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Cops Gone Wild! Police Unions Are Killing Our Freedoms

Police unions are out of control.

Earlier this year, Baltimore cops murdered Freddie Gray by chaining him up and intentionally swerving and repeatedly slamming on the breaks. Rather than telling their members to behave professionally, however, the head of the city’s police union attacked people who protested Gray’s death, smearing them as — of all things! — “a lynch mob.”

About a year ago, the leader of New York’s police union reacted to the assassination of two Brooklyn cops as they sat in their squad car by declaring that newly-elected mayor Bill de Blasio had “blood on his hands” — because he hadn’t been sufficiently pro-cop. (There is no evidence that the killer ever heard of Bill de Blasio.)

Now the Fraternal Order of Police is threatening one of the United States’ most acclaimed film directors.

FOP executive director Jim Pasco, threatened Quentin Tarantino, who helmed “Pulp Fiction” and numerous other major movies, in The Hollywood Reporter. “Something is in the works, but the element of surprise is the most important element. Something could happen anytime between now and (the premiere). And a lot of it is going to be driven by Tarantino, who is nothing if not predictable. The right time and place will come up and we’ll try to hurt him in the only way that seems to matter to him, and that’s economically.”

Charming.

Tarantino’s “crime,” in the eyes of “there’s blue, then there’s you” cops: he attended a Black Lives Matter rally, where he said he was against murderers, and for the murdered.

There’s only one logical inference. According to the police, Black Lives Do Not Matter. By their wicked logic, we should support murderous cops, not murdered civilians.

If you don’t toe the line? “Instead of dealing with the incidents of police brutality that those people were bringing up, instead of examining the problem of police brutality in this country, better they single me out,” Tarantino told The Los Angeles Times. “And their message is very clear. It’s to shut me down. It’s to discredit me. It is to intimidate me. It is to shut my mouth, and even more important than that, it is to send a message out to any other prominent person that might feel the need to join that side of the argument.”

Jacobin magazine’s description of these organizations as “The Bad Kind of Unionism” is putting it mildly. The only people they “protect and serve” is themselves — the people be damned.

It’s ironic that that Tarantino quote comes from the LA Times. The Times, you see, is owned by Tribune Publishing. Whose number-one shareholder is a private equity firm called Oaktree Capital. Which manages the pension fund of the LAPD police union, the LAPPL (Police Protective League).

The LAPPL is one of the free-speech-hating fascist police unions threatening Tarantino. And the LAPPL appears to have gotten the Times to fire me as its political cartoonist — using quickly-discredited evidence — because I criticized the LAPD for the fact that they’re violently militarized and lousy at their jobs.

After I was fired, the LAPPL issued a press release. “So many within the LAPD were pleasantly surprised at the recent firing of Los Angeles Times opinion cartoonist Ted Rall,” the union said. “We hope other news publications will take note…” (They removed it from the Internet after the outcry over my firing.)

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. That’s cops in the year 2015. They want to shoot and torture and rob and harass us. Without fear of punishment.

They can’t even stand criticism.

So they go after cartoonists. And film directors.

Reporters, too.

A former journalist — the “former” comes courtesy of the cops who leaned on his cowardly excuse for an editor to fire him — in Baker City, Oregon is suing Baker City and its freedom-hating police chief for making his life miserable. After the Baker City Record-Courier let Brian Addison go as a favor to Baker City PD in 2008, the cops followed his car around, repeatedly stopping him. When he landed another job, not in journalism, in 2014, the cops got him fired again — using a falsified “dossier” that indicated he had a criminal background. He didn’t.

What did Addison do to piss off the po-po?

He wrote an editorial complaining about an incident at a high school girls basketball game, where the fuzz walked a drug-sniffing dog through the stands during halftime. Addison’s editorial pointed out, correctly, that this was a disgusting violation of basic Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.

Unions are an essential bulwark against gangster capitalism. Public-sector unions are just as necessary as private-sector ones. But these police — and their unions — have got to go.

Every police department in the country should be disbanded. All the cops should be fired. It’s time to start from scratch — and replace them with civilian-run organizations designed to protect us.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for ANewDomain.net, is the author of the new book “Snowden,” the biography of the NSA whistleblower. Want to support independent journalism? You can subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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SYNDICATED COLUMN: Baltimore Riots Were Caused by Capitalism and Cops, Not Poverty

https://baltimorepovertypolicy.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/baltimorepoverty.jpg

The race riots that followed the recent murders of unarmed black men by police in places like Ferguson and Baltimore have liberal commentators and politicians placing the blame on poverty, specifically among inner-city African-Americans. This is an American tradition: progressives wrote similar editorials calling for antipoverty programs, and politicians issued (empty) promises to enact them, after the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles provoked rioting in the South Central neighborhood in the early 1990s, and following the even bigger urban conflagrations of 1968 in Detroit, Newark and Watts.

I grew up poor, and I have struggled financially. I hate poverty; I’m all for any government program that tries to mitigate the pain of not knowing whether one will be able eat, keep the electricity on, or avoid homelessness. Still, the poverty-causes-race-riots tautology is weird. What about the cops?

Baltimore was in trouble long before six police officers arrested Freddie Gray without cause, snapped his spine, gave him a so-called “rough ride” (handcuffed, unbuckled, driven wildly in order to bang you around) in a paddy wagon, and refused his repeated entreaties for medical attention. Too many of its citizens were dark-skinned, impoverished, underemployed, disenfranchised and victimized by gangs and drug dealers.

But it wasn’t a spontaneous outburst of class warfare that caused the riots — it was Gray’s murder by the police, and the authorities’ non-response. Ditto for Ferguson: no killing of Michael Brown by a cop, no riot.

Not that the liberals aren’t onto something: the police in Beverly Hills don’t shoot that many unarmed guys in the back, as they’re running away. Cops in the Hamptons don’t choke fat dudes, who aren’t going anywhere fast, to death on sidewalks in broad daylight. Police don’t mess with you if you’re rich and therefore powerful.

Cops in Baltimore kill unarmed non-suspects because they think they can get away with it. They think they can get away with it because they always have. They always have because unarmed non-suspects in Baltimore are poor.

The victims are poor because they’re black.

Pundits get it wrong when they try to explain the roots of poverty. “The real barriers to social mobility,” writes moderate Republican columnist David Brooks in The New York Times, “are matters of social psychology, the quality of relationships in a home that either encourage or discourage responsibility, future-oriented thinking, and practical ambition.”

In the same newspaper on the same day, Johns Hopkins history professor N.D.B. Connolly gets closer to the truth, pointing to structural racism with its roots in slavery. “The problem rests on the continued profitability of racism. Freddie Gray’s exposure to lead paint as a child, his suspected participation in the drug trade, and the relative confinement of black unrest to black communities during this week’s riot are all features of a city and a country that still segregate people along racial lines, to the financial enrichment of landlords, corner store merchants and other vendors selling second-rate goods.”

But Connolly falls short with his proposed solution when he calls for a “state of emergency” on “the problem of residential discrimination, by devising a fairer tax structure, by investing in public space, community policing, tenants’ rights and a government jobs program.” These would all be moves in the right direction, and I support them, but to pronounce window-dressing reforms “solutions” is ridiculous.

Yesterday, the day Baltimore’s dynamic young black district attorney filed charges including murder against her city’s six killer cops, was May 1st: International Workers Day. Which ought to have reminded editors at places like the Times ­— which has employed numerous far-right opinion columnists, but never a leftist — that poverty is caused by capitalism.

Liberals believe capitalism is a good system prone to excesses, which they propose to mitigate via reform and regulation: poverty, income inequality and racism associated with class are flaws in an otherwise laudable economic model.

But that’s not true. Poverty, and the racism that goes with it, are features, not bugs. The ruling classes require a permanent underclass to exploit directly, and serve as a warning to workers not to ask for big raises, shorter hours or other improvements in workplace conditions — be quiet, lest you wind up like them.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and the cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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