Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Whole New Level of Bearing Witness

The live-streamed video of the aftermath of yet another police shooting is disturbing on so many levels. It also displays a remarkable act of human courage under literal fire.

Recordings of deaths-by-cop by concerned bystanders are becoming ubiquitous. Memorialization of state-sanctioned violence against mainly black and brown people is a valuable public service, prodding our moribund "justice" agencies, politicians and news organizations to start counting the dead and demanding accountability.

But Wednesday's live Facebook stream of a motorist dying in Minnesota after being shot in a routine traffic stop brings citizen journalism and bearing witness to a whole new level. Watch it here:

Diamond Reynolds, the victim's girlfriend, dispassionately recounts to her viewing audience the events leading up to all the blood. Rather than attending to her loved one, identified as 32-year-old Philando Castile, she directs her full facial attention toward her camera as the man lies bleeding to death next to her. 

The medium has temporarily displaced the terrible reality. Only the cop, pointing his gun at her through the open car window, acts emotionally distraught. Reynolds, the passenger, is the one who behaves calmly and respectfully, obeying the hysterical cop's orders to keep still, her hands on the wheel. Perhaps she realized that if she attempted to give aid to the bleeding man, it would have been construed as reaching for a gun herself and resulted in her own execution. She was likely acting out of pure self-preservation. She'd obviously taken "The Talk" on how to behave around cops while black to heart. Nonetheless, she persists in her triple role as a mate, a citizen-journalist, and a social justice advocate.

“Please, officer, don’t tell me that you just did this to him,” she said. “You shot four bullets into him, sir. He was just getting his license and registration, sir.”

It's only after she's removed from the car, her cell phone camera pointing grotesquely up at the clear blue sky, does the personal reality seem to hit her, does she begin to break down and wail, and cry, and mourn.

Once she is placed in the police car, she resumes her calm journalistic narrative to the outside world. Shock, denial and adrenaline combine to enable another surge in her powerful self-possession. Perhaps not yet realizing the gravity of the victim's condition, she is remarkably lucid about the details, recording for posterity the physical characteristics of the shooting officer, the number of shots fired, her physical location, her need for a ride home. Her cell phone simultaneously acts as a cold conduit and as a powerful extension of her own human body.

It's as though she can't allow herself to fully and safely confront what just went down without the aid of that extra electronic eye, that extra electronic larynx.

The cell phone and social media are now a black person's lifeline. The film doesn't lie. History can no longer be revised.


Pearl said...

Karen: you have to get this out to the public via one of the progressive sites. Your column is electrifying and we all have to do what this brave woman did. Record, photograph, anything bleeding politically all around us and send it out.

And the victim was trying to tell them he had a license to carry a gun and paid the price with his life.

Meanwhile back on TVland we are watching the interrogation of the FBI chief with surprisingly good questions by Republican lawyers. Another kind of bleeding going on when we are told that the FBI does not differentiate between the high and the lowly in important investigations. Another hill to climb for its victims.

Great, great column.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks, Pearl. This is already the lead story on both the NYT and practically every site out there.

Not watching the D.C. political theater on the emails. It's basically just partisan grandstanding. The more that the GOP makes her look as bad as she basically is, and the more that they go over the top in their unabashed zeal to destroy her, the more the liberal lemmings will circle the wagons going off the cliff and make a martyr out of her. It's Clintonism 101. See: Lewinsky scandal.

I'll write more about this in the future, but today I just cannot stomach it.

mc said...

Both events are the result of lesser evil at work. Defeating McCain and Romney did not save that kind soul whose colleagues and the students at his school are mourning at this moment. It did not stop the destruction and deaths of the last eight years.

It's not lesser evil. It's different evil.

Meredith NYC said... Pearl said....hope you get this into a Times comment at least and wherever else you can. Send it out---should be an op ed. It punches the reader with the essence of this outrage.
Especially the contrast---hysterical cop vs the fiancee controlling herself to get this on the record.
The world is watching---BBC and France 24 are leading with this story amidst their other intl stories. BBC interviewed prof Paul Butler.
Obama will speak on this from Poland.

Jay–Ottawa said...

While I was reading on line about the latest in Minnesota, which included references to Baton Rouge, more news dinged in about the hefty blowback tonight in Dallas. Poor Obama: he'll have to write another speech.

annenigma said...

That poor little girl in the video consoling her mother made me cry: "Don't worry Mommie. I'm right here with you" in her sweet little voice. It's heartbreaking and enraging what's going on in our streets with the cops engaging in cold blooded murder, a slow motion genocide that's been going on for a long time.

We don't need more conversations about race or more body cameras. We need murder charges and CONVICTIONS of police. They all know exactly how to get out of these charges. "I felt threatened". And they know how to give a false narration for the camera or audio recording "Stop reaching for your gun". Everyone knows who the bad apples are in their workplaces. Unfortunately, those are the ones who have strong connections and protections. They're often popular types who use their charm to get ahead.

The powerful take care of their own henchmen. Consider Obama's protection of war criminals Bush and Cheney, covering up the torture report, his strong support for his partner-in-warcrimes/extrajudicial assassinations, Hillary Clinton, and his differing reactions to recent incidents:

Obama on Castile and Sterling being shot by police: "When incidents like this occur, there's a big chunk of our citizenry that feels like, because of the color of their skin, they're not being treated the same. And that hurts. That should trouble all of us…. This is not just a black issue. It's not just a Hispanic issue. It's an American issue."

Obama on Dallas policemen being shot: "There is no possible justification for such a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement. We are horrified over these events, and we stand united with the people and the Police Department in Dallas. Today is a wrenching reminder of the sacrifices they make for us. Anyone involved in the senseless murders will be held fully accountable. Justice will be done."

Poor Obama indeed. He'll need to get 'Abe' out. That's the Presidential pen he uses to write all those speeches where he wearily reminds us that this is the umpteenth time that he has had to give a speech relating to gun deaths. 'Abe' is the same pen he uses to sign condolence letters (Presidential souvenirs) to send to parents of dead soldiers whom he ordered to battle for corporate profits. 'Abe' is also the pen he uses on Terror Tuesdays to sign the death warrant for assassination-by-drone of terrorist suspects selected from his Kill List.

The militarization of police will never be curtailed despite Obama saying "Military weapons do not belong on our (OUR) streets", given the sniper deaths of cops and the assertion that terrorists are hiding behind every rosebush. President Hillary is going to be in her element and so will her private prison industry supporters and the rest of her neocon endorsers and friends in the Military-Industrial Complex.

With wars of various kinds on our own soil, Hillary won't have to gin up any abroad. I nominate the name 'Ginny' for Commander Hillary's pen.

Karen Garcia said...


Yes, Obama always qualifies his indignation with statements that black and brown people "feel like" they're being mistreated. It's an emotional, not a rational, thing.

All of this is coming right on the heels of his smarmy admission that he's killed a whole bunch of innocent people himself with drones and Hellfire missiles. I guess "those people" also "feel like" they're getting blasted to smithereens.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see where the Dallas shooter got all his advanced sniper training.

The right wingers are eating this up. During the racial "unrest" in the 60s and 70s, the biggest trope was that there were hordes of Black Panther snipers lurking on every rooftop, looking to shoot white cops. That this wasn't true didn't make a lick of difference. And then came Nixon and Reagan. Oh, and Clinton.

Neil said...

The posters on Sardonciky are a group of self-selected, politically aware, thoughtful types who condemn racism and the senseless execution of African-Americans by law enforcement.

However, I believe it is important to recall the AP-GfK poll from Karen’s recent post, "The Dark Night of the Drone Presidency":

"But here's the thing. The public doesn't much care about Those Other People getting killed Over There. An AP-GfK poll conducted last year showed that only 13 percent of Americans are unequivocally opposed to Obama's drone assassination program. And 75 percent said it's even fine to execute a US citizen without charge or trial, if the government believes that he or she has joined a terrorist organization. Six in 10 Americans say it's O.K. to kill suspected terrorists in general. And nearly half still think that killing suspected terrorists is acceptable even when there's a good chance that innocent civilians will also die in the process."

The American public doesn't much care about Those Other Than White Folks getting killed Over Here either. America is a racist nation. The sniper attack last night on 12 officers that killed five cops will make things worse, as the majority of American racists will demand more protection for law enforcement to keep them safe from Those Other Than White Folks. The majority of American racists will gladly shred the civil rights of Those Other Than White Folks in the name of their own safety and security.

Donald Trump tapped into American racism to rise to the top of the Republican heap of primary presidential contenders.

Last year the American Bar Association (ABA) and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational fund issued a joint statement (July 2015) addressing the "troubling and destabilizing loss of public confidence in the American criminal justice system." The statement notes the "recent spate of killings of unarmed African American men and women at the hands of white law enforcement officers."

The ABA/NAACP got this part wrong: "While the ABA and the Fund believe that "the overwhelming percentage" of police, prosecutors and judges are not racist, "explicit bias remains a real factor in our country—and criminal justice system—and implicit or unconscious bias affects even those who may believe themselves to be fair," the statement says."

In my view the overwhelming percentage of American police, prosecutors and judges are racist; it’s a refutable presumption.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) produced an excellent video for its 29th Annual National Equal Justice Award Dinner, featuring video of Thurgood Marshall, a former Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and founder of the LDF.

"On November 4, 2015, over 750 supporters joined the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. ("LDF") at the New York Hilton at its 75th Anniversary National Equal Justice Award Dinner..."

See the ABA-LDF Joint Statement on Eliminating Bias in the Criminal Justice System

ABA addresses 'destabilizing loss of public confidence' in criminal justice in joint statement

ABA, NAACP Legal Defense Fund co-sign statement addressing bias in criminal justice system

Jay–Ottawa said...

Forget the war on drugs and the push for gun control. What's called for is a war on cell phones. As the Bible says, "If your eye gives you scandal, pluck it out." Videos keep giving us scandal, so let's pluck them out. As usual, local authorities have been slow to require tight screening programs at the point of purchase, or to initiate buy back campaigns where apps are already out of the bag.

If ownership of cell phones continues to be a right, not a privilege, despite the fact that cell phones remain the go-to means of upsetting people 24/7, well then those of us who suffer from migraines and vertigo would really appreciate it if mandatory cell phone courses teach people how to hold the thing steady while filming.

Cell phones have replaced desktop computers that used to keep restive populations indoors playing virtual games. It is not enough that government now monitors every call, text and video; legislators have got to attack the supply side and put an end to the sale of cell phones, whether in bright mall stores purporting to sell apples (see Genesis 3:6 about apples) or in the dark alleys of our big cities.

The White House and Congress haven't even begun drafting long, sober speeches on the matter. Just a few words before mics with words like "vicious, calculated and despicable" adds up to too little, too late––even if you are in Poland at the moment working with other NATO members to tighten the noose around Russia.

Cell phones must be viewed as gateway drugs. Unless authorities restrict cell phones in the hands of common people, those same commoners will next be recording the deeds of the elite (and their enforcers) with rifle scopes and eye-in-the-sky drones.

annenigma said...

Jay, most of those phones are 'Obamaphones' and Congress isn't going to bite the hand that feeds them. Just as they give away military surplus to police departments on behalf of the defense industry-welfare queen-campaign contributors, they give away phones to the poor on behalf of the telecom industry and make us all pay. That Universal Access charge/tax on land line bills is for those phones for the poor. I don't know how you qualify. Maybe they issue you one when they give you a SNAP card.

I've used my dumbphone (pay-by-the-minute Trac phone) on numerous occasions over the years to fake calling 9-1-1 or to fake taking a photo (or occasionally actually taking one) when confronted with something too questionable to actually call in, or just suspicious activity, or with young kids who are up to no good but nothing worth getting them in trouble over. I can put the fear of God into them just as easily as a cop and they won't risk getting shot.

Phones/cameras are better than a gun - unless you're a black victim and the perp is a cop. Nothing seems to deter them from their crime. Normal criminals will almost always vanish as soon as they see a phone/camera come out.

I'm glad people are using their smart phones for something smart. They just need to be in pairs or groups and not alone.

annenigma said...

"Military weapons don't belong our our streets" according to President Obama.

The robot that was used to remotely detonate a bomb to kill the Dallas sniper came to Dallas PD courtesy of the 1033 Program that offers free military surplus to local law enforcement agencies. That program was signed by Clinton in 1997 and started the militarization of our police. Since then it has transferred more than $6 billion worth of property to more than 8000 law enforcement agencies enrolled in the program. Where it goes from there is anyone's guess. 'In August 2014 a total of 184 state and local police departments had been suspended from the program for missing weapons and failure to comply with guidelines. Missing items included M14 and M16 assault rifles, pistols, shotguns, and two Humvee vehicles.' I wonder if any sniper rifles were requisitioned that went missing.

Bomb disposal robots are also bomb delivery robots.

'A robot-bomb is very similar to a weaponized domestic drone: it just travels on the ground rather than air.' - Glenn Greenwald

Potential Bug Splat said...

Our President has been such a good role model! Drone warfare has been brought home to further cement our growing police state and desensitize us even more to the thousands of murders of innocent brown people in other countries. Anyone who is against these violent practices and methods of control instantly qualifies for the terrorist list, domestic version.

Jay–Ottawa said...

The armed forces are under the command of a civilian for good reason. Civilians are more likely to pause before reflexively resorting to overwhelming brute force. Was the Mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings, close by Police Chief David Brown when the decision was made to bomb the shooter via robot? The media focus is on Police Chief Brown; I'm curious to know more about the mayor's role Friday night.

Did the Dallas police have no other choice but to robot bomb Micah Johnson after they cornered him?

Aren't tear gas and such stuff, like stun grenades, sufficient to smoke out or incapacitate a holdout? Time, just time, is also on the side of the police; so wait him out. Eventually, the lone holdout falls asleep or wastes himself.

Wouldn't it have been worthwhile to debrief the guy after he was taken under control?

Was police revenge in the mix for the decision to blow Johnson to kingdom come? Or was it fear that he had booby trapped his hideout? As for the revenge angle, it's pretty sure Texas would have sent Johnson to the chair by express delivery for killing 5 cops and gravely wounding several more.

Are local police departments beginning to surpass the excesses of their own SWAT teams? Isn't it likely that having been issued by the feds big-time weaponry and very pricey gadgets, like robots and drones, the local police would eventually use them, even though more appropriate measures could have done the job the old fashioned way?

One might worry whether any police departments around the country have been issued second-hand howitzers by the Pentagon? Sherman tanks? If they have that kind of stuff at hand, are they likely to use it? Sure does facilitate Murphy's Law.

Are police departments morphing into their state national guard to the point where only by the color of the uniform shall we be able to tell them apart? The weaponry, tactics and mindset will be the same.