Call to Action: ‘Police brutality is the most unfair, all-encompassing, active use of fear. It’s time for real accountability and change.’
When I was an undergrad at Columbia University, one night my less-political friends and I were stumbling home fairly drunk down a rat-infested street in Harlem. I was with friends and we were all screaming as big New York rats ran by us. A car pulled up and the driver yelled at us to “shut the fuck up!” I yelled that they could go give themselves pleasure … or, something like that. Suddenly the car stopped and four burly white folk poured out toward me. One of my friends yelled “run” and everyone took off but me. I stood there — being somewhere between righteous anger and fear.
They circled me and I started giggling as I do when I’m nervous. One lunged in and threw a shiny badge in my face: “This funny to you?”
A new fear surged up my tipsy spine. I was surrounded by the most dangerous, out of control people I could think of. They didn’t beat people up, they killed people.
We’d already been organizing around police brutality on campus; there was story after story pouring in about Rudolph Giuliani’s street teams and their off-the-wall brutalizing behavior, inspired by quotas designed to get violent criminals off the streets but resulting in arresting thousands of nonviolent offenders. Young black men from our campus and surrounding community were being stopped and searched, verbally and physically abused, their Columbia IDs useless in stopping the brutality.
Fifteen minutes later, after screaming me up against the wall, ‘frisking’ all over my body to find the wallet that was in my purse, looking at my ID, and failing to make me stop laughing, they left me alone.
A week later, Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times, reaching for his wallet.
Seven years later, Sean Bell was killed on his wedding day in storm of 50 bullets. No wallet has been offered as a possible weapon to justify the shooting. In fact, no explanation has been offered at all. Mayor Bloomberg says it’s unacceptable. What’s unacceptable is that the best solutions the NYPD is offering fall drastically short of creating the accountability that would make the people safe.
Police brutality is the most unfair, all-encompassing, active use of fear. Unchecked, it creates a dynamic wherein people are caught between the struggles they face in their communities and the broken trust with those who are supposed to protect them. The crisis of the modern era is always that of systems against corruption. We act out our values by creating systems for living on this planet together. Those systems then get corrupted, and we suffer until we can eradicate that corruption, create protections against that viral corrosion of our best chance at survival.
Call to Action:
Join ColorofChange.org in demanding that Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Kelly begin a truly independent investigation — with no ties to New York City law enforcement — and institute systemic changes to provide real accountability in the NYPD. Learn more about it here.