Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Time travel

A black cabbie is beaten by police in Newark, NJ. 
Riots flare and burn for five days. 
Riot police riot. 
23 demonstrators are killed, 1,000 people are injured, 1,400 are arrested.
Four days later,
Detroit explodes in fury. 
Federal troops are called out with loaded rifles and tanks. 
43 demonstrators are killed, no police fatalities.
1.189 are injured, 7,000 people arrested. 
For one week the streets burn. 
It is the worst riot of the century.
While Detroit burns, 
uprisings break out in Toledo, Rochester, East Harlem and Pontiac (MI).
Within a week, riots flare in more than 100 cities. 
President Johnson calls out the National Guard. 
Footage of police and National Guard brutality fill our television screens every night, 
alongside film of raging, looting blacks.
Meredith Hall
Without a Map
I guess we could take solace in the fact that we're getting better at riots.

This one lasted for a shorter period of time
and fewer people were hurt/killed.
It sickens me though that 50 years later,
we're still talking about the same behavior,
for basically the same reasons.

In case you hadn't heard,
our community had a riot yesterday.
Today was no picnic either.

The rock that's been kicked over isn't likely to re-settle back into place
anytime soon
and whats crawling out into the light of day
isn't pretty.

There are plenty of people in this country  -
some of whom are flying in to our city even as we speak -
who will capitalize on the chaos for their own gain.

Back in the 60's,
 I didn't have the life experience
to understand the phrase "outside agitator";
I do now.

Facts are still being collected
but stories and speculation are rampant.

The accepted myths driving this scenario depend on your perspective,
your worldview
and, I suspect,
to a large extent,
on your race and economic status.

Over the weekend,
an unarmed black teenage male was gunned down by a white police officer
for no other reason except that he was 'walking while black'.
He was totally innocent of any wrong doing, was, by all reports a terrific kid
and was due to start college today;
instead his parents will be burying him.
Police received a call about a possible theft from a QT,
went to confront two males walking in the middle of the street
who matched the description.
The males approached the Officer while he was still in his car;
gave him attitude, tried to grab his gun and it went off.
The Officer got out of the car and pursued them,
shooting one of the males repeatedly,
even after he was down on the ground.
The black male died.
He was unarmed.
His body lay in the street for hours
(because police couldn't do an investigation
due to the need for crowd control.
The crowd that gathered immediately started threatening and harassing them).

Last night what began as a peaceful protest and demand for answers
by his parents and friends
morphed into a mob, fed by social media.
The mob looted several stores,
threw rocks and bottles at first responders
and burned down the QT.

There's an ongoing investigation involving our local Police,
(City and County),
the FBI,
and the US Attorneys Office.

No surprise that social media is awash with all sorts of nonsense
as well as deeply held and articulately expressed concerns and questions.

Here are some of mine -
(not sure whether they fall into
the former category or the latter)

What does stealing tires, hair extensions, shoes and beer
have to do with 'honoring' a dead teenager?

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
Those stores provided jobs and needed goods and services
in an area that's already high risk financially.
Why would you ruin them and drive them from your community
over a situation they weren't directly involved with at all?

How many of those miscreants last night even knew the dead teenager?

If this was a question of one black kid killing another black kid,
which happens in this town - and others - on a regular,
I mean practically daily basis,
you couldn't get ANY witnesses willing to say what happened.

In those death investigations,
no one saw anything; no one heard anything; no one knows anything.
But for this death,
you have hundreds of people all claiming to have witnessed the event.

Why are people so unwilling to let an investigation unfold?
Life isn't an episode of NCIS;
you don't get the answers in 60 minutes.
A decent, impartial investigation takes time,
hours of footwork and interviewing witnesses,
gathering footage from cameras in the area,
waiting for autopsy and pathology reports etc...
that's not 'stonewalling' -
that's reality!

Sadly, I suspect neither side will believe the results of an investigation -
no matter who conducts it -
unless it furthers their agenda and viewpoint.

I do NOT believe a police Officer got up in the morning,
was in a pissy mood and decided to kill an unarmed kid
just for the hell of it.
I could believe that we ask so much from law enforcement,
and put them in dangerous situations every day,
facing the worst behaviors and qualities of the human condition
that a burned out, over worked Officer could have over reacted to a provocation;
since they carry lethal weapons,
an unwarranted fatality occurred.

I could also believe that a genuinely good kid
made some poor, testosterone driven choices;
whether he was trying to impress friends with his bravado
or was sick of being viewed with suspicions by 'the man',
gave the police 'attitude' when confronted
which escalated into a shouting, shoving match,
a struggle over a gun
and his death.

A beloved son is dead.
A mans career is over; his life threatened.

The fault lines in our community are exposed and raw.

There are no winners in this scenario.

Healing won't be easy -
especially since I suspect people will be picking at this scab
for a LONG time.

It's been a VERY sad day in the Lou.

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