Sunday, May 28, 2017

Too much violence ...

Last Friday night, the motley community of people who have invested themselves in seeking some sanction for the San Francisco police officers who killed young Guatemalan immigrant Amilcar Perez Lopez with six shots to the back gathered on Folsom Street near where he was shot. Perez Lopez died on the 26th of February 2015; we plan to return to the site every 26th of the month for the foreseeable future. If we achieve nothing else, we will remember that, despite the thumb in their favor on the law's scale, cops should not be empowered to kill just because they get heated or maybe feel afraid. Police impunity is simply wrong and shouldn't require commissions, and investigatory bodies, and debates about procedures, and all the paraphernalia of bureaucracy for our city leaders to take a stand against police killings. And it's obvious the color of who continues to die by police bullets; the Mission has seen three police shootings of Latinos in the last three years.

Saturday morning I woke to the news that an angry white man spouting hate on a Portland commuter train had killed two men and injured another who had interrupted his threats to two young women of color, one of whom was wearing a hijab. Presumably the killer was somehow nuts -- he apparently tried to commit suicide by cop by taunting police who surrounded him after the crime. But the killer lives and is in jail facing charges and psych eval today. Apparently he was known to Portland police as a white supremacist and neo-Nazi enthusiast who had threatened violence at demonstrations.

To my surprise, I was heartened by seeing this video of the Portland police spokesperson explaining the little they knew last night about the crime on the train. Unlike our cops, he's not some defensive, awkward commander decked out with medals and weapons who speaks only stilted legalese. I don't know if Portland police have practiced acting like humans when confronted by trauma, but I do know that our cops could take some lessons in communicating. Watch a few minutes if intrigued.
The Portland horror felt close to home. Not long after the election, one of EP's students reported that she'd been riding on BART when a man started harassing a woman wearing a hijab. That student sat down next to the victim and then got off the train with her, even though neither was at their intended stop. It feels as if the violence is all around, as if demons had been loosed.

And then there's the Republican congressman from Montana who responded to a question about the effects of the GOP Trumpcare bill by body-slamming a reporter ...

Meanwhile, sage military reporter Thomas Ricks is book touring Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom. (Will write about this soon enough.) He told the Foreign Policy podcast that these times remind him of the 1850s when this country, unable to resolve its conflict over slavery within the Constitutional governing structure, drifted from violent outbreak to greater violent episode as prelude to civil war. I've explored this parallel before. Ricks went on to point out that police are killing nearly 1000 people each year; this statistic was collected by the Washington Post. Though numerically most of the dead are white, Blacks are 2.5 times more likely to be shot by police, considering Blacks 13 percent share of the whole population.

For a country ostensibly at "peace," there's a lot of violent death happening here ...

1 comment:

Rain Trueax said...

Our problem, and it has been for a lot of years, is random violence. Most of us live safe lives, but it's the unexpected like being in a line to shake the hand of your Congressperson where it can all change in a heartbeat. That's really the nature of terrorism. I'd love to think this is recent, but it's been ongoing for most of my life, certainly since Vietnam. You can't really plan for when it'll turn violent and like those brave men on MAX, you can't be ready for anything that might come. It's not our nature as peace-loving citizens. Even for those who have concealed weapon permits, how do you know when to use them. I've been faced with the threat of violence only a few times in my life. On that MAX, a weapon wouldn't help because few of us are ready for insane, destructive acts by those who worship not life but death. It's not even about a religion but those who use religion. It though is not new, and that's the sad part.

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