Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Tag: protests

This quote from the Dalai Lama says, “If we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster!”

After disaster, now what?

This New Year’s season feels to me a bit like climbing out of the rubble after disaster has struck. I don’t think I’ll get much pushback about whether 2020 qualifies as a disaster. The worst part is that the disaster’s not finished with us.

Those certainly are not the jolliest New Year’s reflections ever shared, but here we are. The painful joke about hitting bottom and then starting to dig definitely applies to 2021, so far.

This quote from author Chuck Palahniuk says, “Only after disaster can we be resurrected. It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything. Nothing is static, everything is evolving, everything is falling apart.”
Quotefancy

Already starting to dig

COVID-19 just added two frightening, virulent mutations to the mix. Vaccine distribution hasn’t gone smoothly. The predicted spike in infections from Christmas travel has only begun to hit, but many hospitals are already overwhelmed.

Although the countdown on homicides resets at the turn of the year, here in the Kansas City metro area we had two homicide deaths on New Year’s Day alone, after a record high in 2020. Just as bad, two persons experiencing homelessness were found dead from exposure during the holiday weekend. My home metro area is not alone. Homicides are up all over the country. So is homelessness, which has been extra-dangerous during the pandemic, even before winter started.

And speaking of the weather, if you think 2020 had a high number of natural disasters (it did), climate scientists warn that things will only get worse. Gosh, have I cheered you up yet?

This quote from Mandy Hale says, “Change can be scary, but you know what’s scarier? Allowing fear to stop you from growing, evolving, and progressing.”
Everyday Power

Are we “growing, evolving, and progressing”?

I think that’s actually on us to decide. It’s easy to let the gloom and doom suck us down. After the pandemic hit, depression in the US tripled. COVID-19 disrupted mental health services all over the globe, so you know that misery had company worldwide. And goodness knows after disaster upon disaster, we had things to be depressed about.

But some of us were able to find opportunities despite all the disruption. Some of my artist friends found they had more time to focus on larger, more ambitious projects, or on building new relationships with companies that wanted to license their images for hot new trends such as jigsaw puzzles.

People became more focused on locally-owned small businesses. Websites such as Independent We Stand, with a robust local business search function, helped us reconnoiter.

It became kind of a civic duty among some of my friends to buy local, order carry-out from their favorite restaurants more often, or order from their favorite local bookstore (and incidentally save the cost of shipping), then swing by in person to pick up their purchases. IndieBound and Bookshop bolstered those efforts online.

This quote from John D. Rockefeller says, “I always tried to turn every disaster into and opportunity.”
BrainyQuote

Some of us got newly active; let’s never be complacent again

Famously, 2020 was the year when millions of white people could no longer ignore the crippling racial disparities in our country, and when millions of people from all backgrounds took to the streets about it. Income inequality and health care disparities were part of it, but police violence riveted our attention more.

The George Floyd murder—8 full minutes and 48 seconds of despair and agony playing out on video under the knee of an uncaring white cop—provided the catalyst for protests against police brutality and racism, not just in the United States but all over the world.

This quote from Catherine the Great says, “I beg you take courage; the brave soul can mend even disaster.”
BrainyQuote

We in the US are far from the only country with a race problem, but our history means in many ways we’re still fighting the Civil War. And we’re woefully far from being “post-racial.”

No honest person could deny that fact, after the summer of 2020. How do we fix it? It won’t be a quick fix, that’s for sure. Despite record sales of books about anti-racism, there are still plenty of bigots walking around (whether they realize it or not).

And it’s not up to white people to step in and take over the “fixing.” That may surprise some of us who are not as “woke” as we think we are. It is up to us to extend a hand of friendship. To listen—really listen—to Black and brown people. And then to work in partnership with POC leaders who’ve been doing this for a long time already. They already know lots more than any latecomers have even thought of, yet.

This quote from the Dalai Lama says, “If we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster!”
Picture Quotes

Traditions in a time of turmoil

My sister wrote a great post for The Weird Blog this week, about New Year’s traditions and her unique spin on them. I think she has a good philosophy, about taking what works for you or adapting familiar ideas to new situations.

I’ve heard that a lot of people are adjusting their new year’s resolutions in response to recent events, opting for wiser, less stereotypical choices.

With this post, I’m reviving a tradition that I allowed to lapse in 2020, but I’m bringing it back in a new form. After my schedule grew too busy to continue my old practice of writing 2-3 blog posts each week, I reluctantly dropped the “Quote of the Week” and “Image of Interest” features. I simply didn’t have time. Alert followers of Artdog Adventures likely saw it coming, but I made it official in April.

Those posts got a lot of love over the years, though. And I missed them too! So I’m going to try a “Quotes of the Month” approach in 2021. That starts with this “After disaster” post you’re just finishing here. I plan, as much as possible, to make the first post of each month an essay-with-quote-images (and hope that effort won’t be a disaster). Please let me know what you think of them!

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks for the illustrated quote from author Chuck Palahniuk, to Quotefancy. I’m grateful to Everyday Power for the quote from author Mandy Hale. Many thanks to BrainyQuote for the wisdom from industrialist John D. Rockefeller, and also for the quote from Russian empress Catherine the Great. Finally, many thanks to Picture Quotes, for the words of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

A group of armed young men at a gas station in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests in August 2020.

How can this be legal?

By G. S. Norwood

“How can this be legal?” is a re-blog from The Weird Blog.

We live in crazy times. At a time when most of us are just trying to stay safe from the coronavirus pandemic and stay afloat in an unstable economy, we have seen armed counter-protesters turn out to threaten peaceful protesters in a quiet town like Weatherford, Texas. How can this be legal?

Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, at left, and his fellow militia member Ryan Balch, walk along Sheridan Road in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on the fatal night.
Photo courtesy of Channel 3000 (no photographer credited).

Protesters and militiamen have died in places like Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, due to the presence of heavily armed militias.

The President of the United States called on a private militia group to stand back and stand by.”

We have heard rumors of armed militiamen making plans to guard polling places on Election Day.

The FBI and state authorities have arrested more than a dozen men for plotting to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia.

How can it be legal to create a private army? Send heavily armed civilians to public places to “protect property” like gas stations and statues without consent or coordination with local law enforcement?

Legal Scholars to the Rescue

Turns out I’m not the only one asking that question.

The Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection has been studying the rise of illegal militia organizations in all fifty states. They have challenged militia groups in court on constitutional grounds. Filed amicus briefs in other court cases. Advised communities on how to meet the challenge of active militia groups. They even sent a letter to the chief of police in Weatherford, Texas, advising him on applicable law.

Go to their website, and search for yourself. You’ll find fact sheets on the laws governing militias in your state. These sheets include advice on what you can do to defend yourself if heavily armed civilians show up at your polling site on November 3.

The Bottom Line in Texas

A group of armed young men at a gas station in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests in August 2020.
Photo courtesy of Spectrum News/Sabra Ayres, via Bay News 9.

It all boils down to this: You and your buddies can meet up, take target practice, drill, and participate in private tactical exercises all you want. Wear camo like it’s high fashion, and buy body armor wherever it’s legally sold.

But if you take action—step into a public situation claiming law enforcement authority without being called up by the governor—you’re an unauthorized private militia and you’re breaking the law.

Simply put, your private army cannot self-activate. Only the duly recognized law enforcement authorities can deputize you to “lend a hand” when needed. You can’t just jump in because you think it would be a good idea.

How can this be legal?

Just to make it all clear, I’m going to contrast militia activity on the Weatherford square with the activities of a group I once belonged to: The Weatherford Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association.

The members of the Weatherford Citizen Police Academy Alumni Association, as the name implies, are all graduates of a six-week training course taught by the Weatherford Police Department. In the course you learn the basic duties of a Weatherford Police officer, undergo a background check and, if you’re interested, earn the right to volunteer for the Weatherford Police Department.

I did a lot of filing and shredding as a WPD volunteer. Other Citizen Police Academy volunteers ride on patrol with officers. They are frequently asked to help with crowd and traffic control during such large public events as the annual Parker County Peach Festival.

In a pre-Covid era, women at the Parker County Peach Festival sell locally-grown peaches from an outdoor booth with a table filled with small baskets of peaches.
Parker County Peach Festival photo courtesy of Megan Parks Photography and Durham Video and Photography.

It’s All in the Authorization

That’s the key. The Police Department asked for help. CPA volunteers are directed by, and answerable to, the Police Department. They don’t just show up in a reflective vest and start bossing drivers and pedestrians around.

A group crosses the legal line anytime they take on a law-enforcement role without being asked. Unless they coordinate their activities with the good people in real law enforcement agencies, they are breaking the law.

Go to the Georgetown website. Learn about the law. More importantly, know who to contact and how to document your experience, if you feel some guy with a gun is crossing the line on Election Day.

If you find yourself wondering “How can this be legal?” you may find out that it’s not.

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to Channel 3000, for the photo of Kyle Rittenhouse and his fellow militia-member Ryan Balch in Kenosha. We also thank Spectrum News, Sabra Ayres, and Bay News 9, for the photo of the civilians in camo and ballistic armor, also in Kenosha. And we appreciate Megan Parks Photography and Durham Video and Photography for the photo from the Parker County Peach Festival.

Five white men in matching t-shirts, at least three of whom also wear military-style tactical vests and appear to be armed, stand together and exchange looks with four black men who stand across from them, wearing matching T-shirts of a different design bearing the words “#UNITY #JUSTICE #PEACE.” What are they thinking about this encounter?

What are they thinking?

By G. S. Norwood

When armed civilians take to the streets, what are they thinking?

The news out of Kenosha, Wisconsin, is bad. A 17-year-old boy, armed with an assault rifle, killed two protesters and wounded a third. I wanted to finish up this cycle of protest-related blog posts by trying to answer the question: What are they thinking?

Peaceful Protests or Armed Militia?

To get to that answer, I’ll recount a conversation I had online with two men who appeared to support the presence of heavily armed civilians at otherwise peaceful protests.

Before we get any deeper, I want to make clear that in the protests I discuss in this post, people marched peacefully in Weatherford, Texas, and other small towns around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It was broad daylight. Nobody broke windows, toppled statues, or looted places of business. Nobody announced any intention to commit such acts of destruction.

The local police were both aware of the protesters’ actions and in place to keep the peace. Conditions might be different in other parts of the country, but this is what I saw, and learned from others who were present at the protests, including law enforcement officers.

Online Rumors

After a July 25 march in Weatherford, Texas, to protest the Confederate statue on the Parker County Courthouse lawn, rumors began to spread on the internet. They whispered that the group was going to march again at 3:30 pm on Saturday, August 8.

What are they thinking? Several men ride in the back of a black pickup truck with dark-tinted windows. A large black rifle and scope is tripod-mounted on top of the truck’s cab, next to a large Confederate Battle Flag. Behind them is a limestone storefront from the square in Weatherford Texas.
Photo by Trice Jones, via Dallas Morning News.

As early as 8:30 am, Facebook commenters had spotted some guy in a heavily armored pickup truck with a trailer parked on the square, apparently waiting for the marchers. Others appeared as the day rolled on. Local law enforcement was out in force, detouring traffic away from the square, and calling in reserve officers to monitor the situation.

Right about here you might wonder, “What are they thinking will happen?”

No marchers appeared and, according to a friend within the D/FW progressive community, no march was ever planned. Perhaps it was another example of someone trolling the militia, as happened at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 4.

Asking For A Friend

I asked another friend, one of the reserve law enforcement officers called to the square that day, what the official line was on vigilante policing. That is, “private armed citizens threatening other private, possibly armed, citizens in public places.”

He said he couldn’t speak for the officials, but personally he was not a fan. His response echoed the opinion expressed by other former law enforcement officers I know.

That was the point at which one of his other Facebook friends said state statutes and the Constitution allow “protection of property, including that of others.” He said they were there to protect the statue, in case the protesters tried to pull it down.

A stone statue of a man with a goatee, dressed as a Confederate infantryman with a rifle, stands atop a stone base dedicated by the United Daughters of the Confederacy “In honor of the United Confederate Veterans of Parker County, 1861-1865.” The statue stands on the grounds of the Parker County Courthouse in Weatherford, TX.
Photo by Tony Gutierrez, via Dallas Morning News.

While my reserve officer friend agreed that state law allows private citizens to protect property, he offered a more nuanced response. “Her question was about ‘private armed citizens maintaining order by threatening other citizens . . .’ which is NOT allowed by statute or otherwise. I doubt seriously that a citizen that tried to justify the use of force ‘protecting a statue’ would stand much of a chance in court.”

As a former law enforcement officer, who has to maintain his state law enforcement certification to continue to serve as a reserve officer, he has actually studied these questions.

Then a second person commented that, “For a lot of them, [the armed civilians] they’re not specifically protecting the statue. The BLM and Antifa are known to destroy the surrounding area of statues.”

Which isn’t significantly different than just protecting the statue, so still isn’t a legally defensible excuse for armed civilians to threaten protesters. But I wanted to understand the rationale for coming out armed.

What Are They Thinking?

So, I asked one of the commenters, “Isn’t it the job of the Weatherford Police Department and the Parker County Sheriff’s Office to prevent that kind of property destruction? Not the job of private citizens? Do you have any credible information that the WPD and PCSO are incapable of doing the job taxpayers pay them to do in an effective and professional manner? I have always found the professional law enforcement officers in Parker County to be well-trained and highly capable.”

The commenter responded, “I never said the law enforcement agencies here were incapable of doing their job. I personally think that it would serve all concerned much better if there were no armed citizens looking like they were ready for a battle on the town square. I think that there should be a good number of people prepared, however, if things got ugly, to be there quickly to back the LEO up. Some of the folks parading around down there are not helping Weatherford, Parker County, or themselves look good.”

Five white men in matching t-shirts, at least three of whom also wear military-style tactical vests and appear to be armed, stand together and exchange looks with four black men who stand across from them, wearing matching T-shirts of a different design bearing the words “#UNITY #JUSTICE #PEACE.” What are they thinking about this encounter?
Photo by Jason Janik, via Dallas Morning News.

Then I asked, “Isn’t that what reserve officers are for? Trained and TCOLE certified? They would operate in coordination with, and under the command of, WPD, PCSO, and/or DPS. Otherwise you just have a bunch of freelance cop wannabes, operating on their own ‘best judgement’ with no accountability. Seems to me that just makes the whole situation harder for the actual cops to contain.” Nobody responded to that one.

What are WE Thinking?

What are they thinking? It appears to be that they’ll take their guns and go to the protest to “uphold the law” with no real training in what the law actually says, and no grasp of the fact that cops have to let the BLM people march and speak too.

The cops can’t take sides or they undermine the rule of law for everybody. If a bunch of freelance wannabes ride into town to enforce the law as they see fit, they are just winging it on the back of their self-aggrandizing hero fantasies. They make things worse for the real cops, who are trying to do their real jobs.

George Fuller, the mayor of McKinney—another Dallas suburb about 100 miles north and east of Weatherford—put it a different way when a small militia group showed up on the town square there. “As far as those outsiders that are coming in; get on the damn bus and go home. You are not wanted here, you’re not liked here, you don’t add anything other than division, and you look silly. Go play G. I. Joe somewhere else.”

A summer of protests, marches, confusion and disinformation now promises to plunge us into an autumn of more protests, marches, confusion, disinformation, unasked-for Federal responses, and a divisive election. On The Weird Blog and on my sister Jan’s “Artdog Adventures” blog, we’ve spent much of the summer commenting and exploring the issues that have arisen. Anyone who’s read them knows where we stand.

So the themes of Jan’s posts will vary for a while. At least until something else happens to make us ask, “What are they thinking?”

IMAGE CREDITS:

Many thanks to the Dallas Morning News for all three of the images in this post. We’d also like to salute photographers Trice Jones (a local activist?), for the photo of the guy in the truck with a gun in Weatherford TX, Tony Gutierrez, for the photo of the Parker County Confederate Veterans Memorial on the courthouse grounds in Weatherford TX, and Jason Janik, Special Contributor and an AP-affiliated photographer, for the photo of typical-for-2020 militia and protesters. These appear to have been in McKinney, TX, but they represent their compatriots well.

Several signs promote a growing push to defund and demilitarize the police.

Ripe for protests

We were ripe for protests. We should have seen them coming. Some of us undoubtedly did.

The COVID-19 pandemic stripped all the systemic problems and weaknesses in our racist, inequitable society bare. They stare us in the face every day of our transformed lives. Every news cycle, the horrors pile up.

Cascades of catastrophe

An ever-changing number of states show uncontrolled spread of COVID. We’ve recorded more than five million cases of COVID in the USA. And more than 160,000 deaths. By the time this post goes live, there will be more. Of course—inevitably—Black, brown, and non-gender-conforming groups and communities take the hardest hit. Always.

Here’s a New York Times graph showing gains and losses in the Gross Domestic Product  (GDP) since the late 1940s. The deepest drops seem to have been around 2-3%, but in the second quarter of 2020 it dropped 9.5%, which looks really dramatic on the chart—a far deeper plunge than in any of the previous years shown.
From the New York Times

Approximately 16.4 million people currently face unemployment in the US. Our GDP dropped off the bottom of the chart in the second quarter. It’s officially a recession, but Washington Post columnist Robert J. Samuelson recently called for us to “call it what it is,” a Pandemic Depression. His arguments are compelling.

Meanwhile, millions of Americans are staring homelessness in the face, as short-term pandemic aid from the Federal Government runs out. Thanks to Senate inactivity, nothing is there to replace it.

If past is prelude, protests were inevitable

Oh, yes, we were ripe for protests. At crisis points like the one we’re in, people always take to the streets. A recent National Geographic article surveyed earlier protests in the USA, but you don’t have to stop at our borders. Just look at the unrest that swept several continents in 1848. Driven by civil unrest, famine, and accumulated outrage, these uprisings toppled governments and transformed many parts of the world—including the USA.

Archaeologists uncover shallow graves in Peru where child sacrifices were buried by the Chimú people e 500 years ago.
Courtesy of National Geographic

Crisis breeds desperate measures. Five hundred years ago, a climate crisis drove the Chimú people of Peru (the empire that preceded the Inca) to sacrifice hundreds of their own children.

We haven’t gone that far, but some of us do seem willing to send them, their teachers, and other school personnel back into classrooms with less-than-ideal safeguards. Was anyone surprised to see the North Paulding High School close after only a week?

In this now-infamous photo, 15-year-old Hannah Waters captured a crowded hallway at North Paulding High School in Georgia, where no one was social distancing and almost no one was wearing masks.
Photo by Hannah Waters, via AP and The Washington Post

Yes, it’s getting more violent. That was predictable, too.

When I started the First Amendment series, I had protests in mind. I thought it was important to remember that the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging . . . the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Dr. Martin Luther King called riots “the language of the unheard” in a 1966 interview with Mike Wallace on the TV show 60 Minutes. He explained how people can be pushed to violence, yet steadfastly argued for nonviolent protest. Unfortunately, many today have grown impatient.

Back at the start of the summer, the protests were mostly peaceful—except when exacerbated by forceful curfew enforcement, or a minority of agitators. Lately, however, we’ve seen a troubling uptick in violence.

Why the violence? Why now? It may be deepening desperation, sparked by the worsening death toll and unemployment picture. Perhaps it’s growing disillusionment, after a summer of protests that have sparked conversation—but no real action in response to people’s deepening needs. And it might be a partial reaction to the clear disregard by police and some authorities for the arguments protesters make.

We’re still ripe for protests. And I fear we’ll continue to be a powder keg till inequalities are ameliorated, help is delivered, and the pandemic abates.

In other words, don’t hold your breath. It’s not nearly over.

IMAGE CREDITS:

I deeply appreciate the New York Times for providing a graphic demonstration of the Second-Quarter 2020 drop in the US Gross Domestic Product, as compared with previous decades. Many thanks to National Geographic for the photo of the archaeological excavation of child-sacrifice graves in Peru. All respect to Hannah Waters, the brave 15-year-old who blew the whistle on her alma mater, North Paulding High School, with thanks to the AP and the Washington Post for making her photo available. Finally, I want to thank You Tube and 60 Minutes, for the historic Mike Wallace interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This post wouldn’t be the same without you!

This photo shows a wide shot of a large crowd, many in dark clothing with protest signs, facing off against police in New York's Grand Central subway station.

Nothing is simple

Nothing is simple, although it may look that way from the outside.

I found an article the other day in one of my online research resources, Police Magazine. It reported on a disturbance in New York City’s Grand Central subway station. 

A group called Decolonize this Place organized it as part of a daylong series of demonstrations. This is the third time this group has staged demonstrations since earlier in 2019.

This photo shows a wide shot of a large crowd, many in dark clothing with protest signs, facing off against police in New York's Grand Central subway station.
A still from a video from New York Post, via Police Magazine, showing the protest in the terminal. (Police Magazine/New York Post)

They didn’t manage to close it down, as they’d hoped.

What they did manage to do was get national TV and other news coverage, and slow things down in Midtown. Reports on the size of the crowd and number of arrests varied. They left banners and sprayed graffiti, and tweeted about it. And they made an effort to look both intimidating and impossible to identify. Seems pretty obvious this group is up to no good, right?

Well, nothing is simple.

What’s the goal of the disruption?

This group clearly hates the police. According to their tweets, they want to “end all policing & destruction of public order . . . to bring public safety back to NYC.” They also want all mass transit fees ended, so the rides are all free. 

This retweet by NYC PBA of a Decolonize video says, "New Yorkers should pay close attention: this is true endgame of the anti-police movement, an end of all policing & destruction of public order. Our members have spent their careers--and in some cases given   their lives--to bring public safety back to NYC. We can't go backwards"
Photo from 1010 WINS Radio, via Twitter. (Note the
linked Twitter video contains profanity).

Let’s unpack this. First of all, “end all policing” is connected to “destruction of public order.” 

The goal is “to bring public safety back to NYC.”

While the article in Police Magazine did list their goals as “no cops in the MTA, free transit [and] no harassment, ” they focused more on the disruption and vandalism

That’s not surprising. Their aim, as stated by MTA Chief Safety Officer Pat Warren (quoted in the article), is to protect “transit services that get New Yorkers to their jobs, schools, doctors and other places they need to go.” Simple enough.

But nothing is simple.

How can the protests promote the need for public safety?

I’d just read another article about a UK study that demonstrated a 14-21% reduction in crime when the police patrolled subway stations every 15 minutes. These platforms previously had not had a police presence–exactly what the New York demonstrators are demanding

The article even went so far as to make a direct comparison: “London’s Underground, akin to NYC’s subway system, was the first underground railway in the world, and now services more than 1.3 billion passengers per year.”

The police show up and crime goes down. That’s pretty simple, isn’t it? But nothing is simple.

This photo shows a seating area at the Canary Wharf stop of the London Underground, with a train in the background.
A study showed police patrols every 15 minutes in the London Underground deterred crime. Yet Decolonize this Place is demanding that police stop patrolling the New York City subways. Does this make sense? (Photo courtesy of Forensic).

Who’s protecting whom, and from what?

The London Underground recently has seen delays from demonstrations, too, but those were staged by climate activists seeking attention. One of the biggest worries there seems to be terrorist attacks (and with good reason)

But hardly any of the London Underground’s users seem to think the police themselves are a danger to public safety. No so, for Decolonize this Place. They demonstrated to remove them from the subways entirely

The New York City subway system’s police officers, interacting with an assortment of low-income persons of color have been captured in distressing videos that went viral. This apparently happens frequently in the subways. 

Six homeless persons doze or sleep on a bench in a New York subway terminal.
The number of homeless persons living in the New York City subways has jumped by 20% recently (screencap of a video via ABC-7 News)

The MTA recently (and controversiallyhired 500 new officers to patrol the subways. They are there to address “quality of life” issues, such as illegal food vendors and the growing number of homeless people living in the subway system. 

Meanwhile, the NYPD has been cracking down on low-level crimes, and that’s no surprise, since that kind of crime is up. But that often means focusing on persons of color, whether it’s because of simple economics or racial bias. But addressing those issues, no matter how tactfully, is no simple matter.

Respect is not as simple a matter as it may seem. 

This 1981 news photo shows uniformed British police moving toward a barricade and bonfire, behind which a group of demonstrators hide.
1981 Brixton Riots in the UK: first large-scale clash between low-income black youths and white British police in the 20th Century. (Photo from The Royal Gazette)

As far as I can tell, one clear problem with NYPD and MTA officers’ approach is that it never seems to be respectfulDefensive, definitely–and in the current environment, caution is warranted

But whatever their intentions, the effect when they surround a tiny, elderly churro vender with four or five much taller armed police officers and handcuff her is pretty darned intimidating.

This is not a new thing, this antagonism between police forces and the working poor. And it’s not isolated to New York City. Fines that unfairly burdened lower-income residents of Ferguson MO fueled some of the fury in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing. And all too often cities’ attempts to “deal with the homeless problem” turn into efforts to chase the homeless out of town–or at least out of sight. 

In this CBC photo officials use a construction front shovel loader to dump debris from the homeless camp into a dumpster for disposal.
Officials used heavy equipment to clear out a homeless camp near Moncton, New Brunswick last May (photo by Shane Magee/CBC)

Even efforts designed to be helpful don’t always succeed. Many places create task forces that include social workers to coordinate with the police, but their success is mixed. “Neighborhood policing” doesn’t always have the desired result.

It’s not just the working poor who feel disrespected. Police officers also have every reason to feel they are not respected. Indeed, too often they are violently targeted. “Bad actors” among sworn-officer ranks get sensational headlines, and besmirch the ones who honestly struggle each day to serve their communities.

Nothing is simple. Especially not efforts to negotiate the delicate balance of respect, accountability, and public order that characterizes interactions between the police and the working poor

But it’s quite simply true that everyone’s safety and security depends on finding a way.

IMAGE CREDITS: 

Many thanks to Police Magazine (and New York Post) for the coverage of the protest, and to 1010 WINS Radio and Twitter for the tweet from Decolonize this Place. I’d also like to thank Forensic for the photo from the London Underground, and ABC-7 News for the screencap of homeless people in subways. Additionally,  much gratitude to The Royal Gazette for the historic photo from the Brixton Riots, as well as The Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) and their photographer/reporter Shane Magee for the photo from the Moncton NB homeless camp.

Peace and Justice and Black and Blue

The events of this month so far have left me feeling torn in pieces.

From Dallas, before the attack. Can we see more of this, please, and less of what came later?

Anyone who reads my blog from time to time will likely have noted that I am interested in, and largely sympathetic toward, law enforcement. Yet another dominant theme for me is social justice Indeed, on July 2nd, I announced that my theme for the quotes and images of this month would focus on diversity as a major strength of my homeland, the United States of America.

I chose it because the ugly rise in open racism that I have seen in recent years troubles me deeply, and I believe the most patriotic thing I can do is oppose that trend. I’m not the only one in my country who feels torn by seemingly competing loyalties, or betrayed by the oversimplifications it’s too easy to fall into.

If I am supportive of the police, am I automatically unsympathetic to the minority communities that have so often been targeted, or oblivious to the seemingly-endless cases of unarmed black men (and boys) killed by police?

If I affirm that the protesters often have an all-too-valid point, am I undermining the authority and values of law enforcement, or denying the value of the rule of law?

No. I want a third way. I want a way where everyone’s intrinsic value is affirmed: where ALL neighborhoods have access to good food, good education, health care, and job opportunities, and where the presence of the police is honestly welcomed.

As President Obama said in Dallas, we must keep our hearts open to our fellow Americans. “With an open heart, we can abandon the overheated rhetoric and the oversimplification that reduces whole categories of our fellow Americans not just [to] opponents, but to enemies.”

I pray he was right when he said, “I believe our righteous anger can be transformed into more justice and more peace.” But it won’t happen if we stay back in our bitter, angry corners and refuse to see each other’s humanity. Each one of us has a responsibility to step up: to do all we can to make that vision a reality in our world.

IMAGE: Many thanks to Quartz, for the photo of the protester with the cops. 

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