Well hello there!
This week on The Politics of Singing (now at it’s new time: 10pm to Midnight every Sunday) we are talking about police brutality.
I tossed around the idea of doing a show on police brutality last week, since I have tons of punk songs about the cops and police oppression and what not, but when I heard that the verdict came in on the Mehserle murder trial this past Thursday, I knew for sure that this would be the perfect week to focus on the cops.
Johannes Mehserle, a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Officer, shot and killed an unarmed man, Oscar Grant, on January first of 2009 in Oakland, California (my home state). Videos of the shooting, taken by witnesses with cell phone cameras, show that Grant was lying face down when Mehserle pulled out his gun and shot him, execution-style, in his back.
Mehserle’s defense was that he thought he had pulled out his taser, that he shot Grant accidentally and really just meant to taze him. A few minutes before he was shot, another officer had punched Grant in the face several times, and called him a “bitch-ass n****r”.
I’m sorry, but how in the HELL does a cop confuse a taser with a pistol??? They look different in color and shape, they are of different weights, and they are each held in holsters on opposite sides of the body. Nevertheless, Mehserle pleaded not guilty, and on July 8th he was convicted of INVOLUNTARY manslaughter and will be sentenced to a maximum of four years in prison on August 6.
You can check out a pretty well balanced version of both sides of the full story here.
When the verdict came in on Thursday, 800-1000 people gathered in Oakland to protest the verdict, which most people believed should have been second-degree murder. The rally was initially peaceful, but the immature little anarchists (not all anarchists are immature, but these anarchists happen to be immature) had to ruin it, as always, by using it as an excuse to protest big corporations (admittedly evil corporations) by breaking the windows of storefronts and setting dumpsters on fire. 83 people were arrested on charges such as “failing to disperse”.
Here’s a link to a story about the protests, which includes cell phone video footage of Grant being shot.
Other examples of police officers using excessive and unnecessary force that come to mind...
In 1991, Rodney King was brutally beaten by LAPD officers, who were videotaped using excessive force, both tazing and beating the hell out of King. The officers were acquitted when tried for the use of excessive force, which led to the LA riots of 1992. I remember this well, as I was in jr. high at the time and did a presentation on the LA riots for school.
In 1999, unarmed and innocent Amadou Diallo was shot 19 times by NYPD plainclothes officers because he resembled someone who was wanted on rape charges. The four officers were acquitted of murder charges.
In 2006, unarmed and innocent Sean Bell, who was to be married the next day, was murdered by NYPD officers, who fired at least 50 bullets at Bell and his friends as they left Bell’s bachelor party at a strip club. The 3 police officers were acquitted on charges of manslaughter an reckless endangerment in 2008.
In general, the way protesters are treated in our supposedly “free” country, a country whose Bill of Rights guarantees “the rights of the people to peaceably assemble” but Does Not specify that the government has the right to create “free-speech zones” in which protesters are cordoned off and herded like animals. Anti-war and anti-globalization protesters get rubber bullets, batons and gas, and what do the Tea Party protesters get? Tons of coverage on Fox News.
Here are some other stories of police brutality, including peaceful protesters being arrested for reading the constitution aloud in front of a pro-war group, and a university student being tased for not having his ID card at the library.
Before I sign off, let me make it clear that I do believe that there are many Good cops out there; I’ve met a few. I have no personal beef with cops in general. However, there are heaping tons of clear evidence that many police officers use excessive force and commit murder instead of Protecting the public and keeping the Peace, two of the things they are paid by us, the taxpayers, to do.