Police Brutality: Yet Another Plague to Worry About
Source: ACLU of New Mexico
When I think of police brutality, my mind instantly goes to the year of 2014. The first concrete memory I have of understanding what police brutality means and looks like is the death of Michael Brown Jr. and the protests that followed in Ferguson, Missouri. Between the years of 2014 and 2020, six years elapsed yet there seemed to be little to no difference in terms of the political and racial landscape of America. When George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery were murdered at the hands of law enforcement in 2020, it served as a wake up call to many in the country about the persistence of police brutality and systemic racism. Yet for so many other individuals, it was a story that they were all too familiar with. Unfortunately in the time that has passed, there have been no shortages of unarmed Black individuals that have been murdered by the police. The same political and racial unrest that plagued America in the wake of Michael Brown Jr’s death in 2014 is still unresolved as we make our way into 2021.
One of the reasons the events surrounding Michael Brown Jr's death stood out to me are the protests that followed the Grand Jury's decision to not indict Darren Wilson, the officer that shot Brown, on any criminal charges. Protesters from Ferguson become political prisoners, and many of them were arrested with little evidence supporting a case against them. One of the last political prisoners associated with the Ferguson riots, Josh Williams, is seeking parole after serving an eight year sentence for a charge that was brought against him with little to no evidence. Since his imprisonment, we as a country have seen little progress in terms of law enforcement's violent tendencies towards marginalized communities, and Black individuals continue to suffer at the hands of police departments.
A Washington Post database highlights that police officers all across the U.S. have continued to shoot and kill approximately 1,000 individuals per year since 2014, and they are on track to do that even with a global pandemic taking over the country. Along with their trigger-happy tactics, law enforcement have used excessive force against Black individuals for protesting at rallies in the summer of 2020, which they seem to have forgotten is a right protected by the Constitution. Just in the time between May and June of 2020, there were over 125 documented occurrences of police brutality at protests across the country. Law enforcement used scare tactics such as kettling and unmarked vehicles to isolate and corner individuals while also resorting to physical violence when dealing with certain individuals. These actions on the part of law enforcement only become more concerning when you juxtapose them with how insurrectionists and domestic terrorists were treated by the Capital police on January 6th of 2021.
Source: The Washington Post
On January 6th of 2021, a large mob of right-wing individuals seen above, emboldened by the words and actions of Donald Trump, used excessive force to storm and eventually break into the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. The individuals that partook in this insurrection claimed in a righteous manner that they were protesting what they believed to be a "rigged" election of 2020. Unless the definition of "protesting" has has suddenly changed, it would be difficult to categorize these acts of domestic terrorism as a form of protest. I'm sure many of us wondered how different January 6th would have looked if it was any other racial group storming and defacing the Capitol building. What happened to the weapons and violent tactics police officers did not hesitate to use over the summer of 2020?
Even if these individuals pictured above were arrested, they are being fed organic diets in jail or being released on their own recognizance while awaiting trial. It goes without saying that these are not luxuries that are often afforded to people of color if they stand accused of a crime. The hypocrisy demonstrated by how law enforcement treated these individuals on January 6th 2021 as opposed to the protesters from the summer of 2020 speaks to the severity of institutional racism that persists in this country. Based on these events and how differently these two racial groups were treated, I’m not sure if reforming these institutions is an adequate next step. Often times, reforming only leads to performative efforts and what would be the point of that if we cannot expect to see impactful changes?