September 20, 2016

"Stop, Hey - What's That Sound..."

Charlotte, North Carolina - Realtime
photo credit:   Adam Rhew, Charlotte Magazine
many thanks to Shaun King for posting this photo on Facebook

As I type this, demonstrations are taking place in Charlotte, North Carolina in response to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a disabled man who was in his car reading a book.    Yes, witnesses say that he was reading a book while there are now reports coming from the police stating that
Mr. Scott had a gun.  Mr. Scott's daughter went Facebook Live immediately afterwards - much like Diamond Reynolds did this summer when her boyfriend Philando Castille was shot while in his car and obeying police orders in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.

As far as Charlotte goes, what we know for is that the police were on the way to serve an arrest warrant to another person.

*we don't all look alike, folks*

Mind you, while the police are reporting that Mr. Scott was armed, we have seen many cases over the past few years "in which policemen have planted guns on victims.   I certainly hope that no one has forgotten that former North Charleston Police officer Michael Slager was indicted for murder after it was discovered that he planted a weapon on the late Walter Scott (after shooting him), and also hope that the news of a former St. Louis police officer planting a gun in a victim's car (after going after the victim with an unauthorized AK-47) reached everyone today as we all scrolled through "the Blue Pages".

Forgive me for the cynicism, but Keith Lamont Scott's murder took place TWENTY-EIGHT hours after the murder of Terence Crutcher, who was shot by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The reason I write this, however, is neither for the simple fact that tear gas has already been used against the demonstrators in Charlotte nor to highlight that again, like in July of this year, two deaths happened in such close proximity.  

Let's think about this for a moment:   since the events in Ferguson, Missouri, there has been intense discussion about the militarization of the police.    Last year in Baltimore we saw it in full force on April 27, 2015 and in the week that followed (which included the National Guard being deployed and a curfew).    More and more we are seeing law enforcement coming out in riot gear and riot formation in response to demonstrations.   We saw it this past summer in Baton Rouge (and I am so grateful to have been around a wonderful group of friends and colleagues when that took place - cast members of the Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre, the Schubertiade could not have happened at a better time and we did ALL need that!).   We're now seeing it again - in less than a few hours after Keith Lamont Scott's death.   However, all of that talk seemed to disappear during the summer of 2015 and the rise - albeit sadly being taken humorously - of Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

The Fraternal Order of Police just endorsed Donald Trump's presidential candidacy.   The Philadelphia Police Union also gave Mr. Trump an endorsement.   Mr. Trump has said that he is the only person that can "make America safe again", and has been speaking from a very old and if I may TIRED playbook that ignores the legislation and practices that resulted in the creation of America's oh-so-frightening inner cities.   We cannot talk about the "decaying inner cities" without talking about the historical practices of redlining and deed restrictions, both of which left Black Americans OUT of the "American Dream" for decades.

That's not the point, though.

For a while, there WAS discussion about the militarization of police.  That discussion seems to have died down, only to be replaced with story after story about Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.  Tonight, in Charlotte, North Carolina, we are again getting glimpses at what could turn into extreme police action.

We have a candidate who says that he's the only person who can make our nation "safe again".

Pay attention, folks - and act accordingly.

No comments: