Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Orleans' No Man's Land

As if a thousand-plus people coloured people drowning weren't enough bad publicity, if you haven't heard the latest news out of New Orleans, take a look at this article (and the linked video clips). It seems that two state police officers and two federal officers took it upon themselves to beat the ever-lovin' shit out of an African American man who may have done nothing more than booze it up a bit too much in the reconstituted downtown New Orleans. The video is hard to watch, but what is even more disturbing is how the officers involved in this brutal attack plead not guilty and are already citing the stress of Hurricane Katrina as part of their violent, senseless act of feral brutality. Here's the play by play if you're too lazy to watch the thirty-second ad before the video. Cops are just hanging out in the French Quarter, keeping the peace, where they find 64-year-old Robert Davis, a retired schoolteacher. For whatever reason, the cops swarm Davis and decide to arrest him for public drunkeness. Davis swears he didn't drink alcohol that night and claims that the altercation began after he asked one of the cops about the city's curfew and was met with a series of derogatory insults. A cop on horseback moves to block the AP photographer's view as something happens behind the horse's ass. We don't really know what, but it can't have been a fear for the cops' lives because, at this point, you can see that Davis has already been surrounded and his arms are behind his back. As the horse graciously moves his rear end for the camera, we see the cops smash Davis' head against that concrete wall no less than four times (I took a screen cap of Davis' head in mid-flight towards the wall, but obviously, it's slightly more striking in motion). Davis then gets knocked to the ground by the four officers. The AP photographer has, by this point, moved to get a better view. At this point, the officers, with one guy damn near sitting on top of Davis, proceed to punch and kick him some more. Oh, yeah, and this unidentified guy gets the asshole of the year award, for having such a bored look on his face while a sixty-year-old-man gets beaten to death by the popo. Meanwhile, one of the cops, an S. M. Smith, decides to push around an AP journalist, saying, amid profanities, "I've been here for six weeks trying to keep myself alive. ... Go home." And then, for another several minutes, as Davis is basically bleeding from a massive head injury, cops step over his broken, injured body... ...while Davis lies in a pool of his own blood. Police Chief Warren Riley, himself an African American man, has denied that the incident was race-related, but, please, if three white cops beat the shit out of a black man above and beyond the call of duty, there is obviously something racial going on. Otherwise, why don't we see more white guys getting the ever-loving shit beaten out of them for merely asking for some directions? No, this is a re-run of Rodney King and just as racist. But what's truly disgusting to me is that these cops, just like the cops who beat Rodney King, will most likely get off. They have the privilege of proper pigmentation, that same "get out of jail free" card that seems to benefitted so many: cops who commit police brutality such as the officers who beat Diallou and white murderers who harass and murder victims of colour like Roger Ebens. We are a colourstruck society. As much as we want to deny the power of race and the sway of stereotypes, we hide within these bigoted prejudices, always quicker to believe white innocence and black guilt. Chai Vang was recently convicted of the murder of six white hunters in Wisconsin, the jury flat-out refusing to consider the racist epithets and aggressive behaviour of the victims that caused Vang to act in self-defense. You can bet, however, that if Vang were a white man, and he had been surrounded by six agitated Hmong immigrants speaking in a thick accent and gesturing violently while one called for backup on his walkie talkie, Vang would've been awarded a bloody medal. Meanwhile, even with images like this... ...Fox News repeatedly reiterated on its news broadcast that public drunkeness was a crime and the cops were just doing their jobs. It's as if, even faced with this visual evidence, the cops still had to be thought of as "in the right". Don't be surprised if Davis is still charged with a crime and gets villified during the subsequent trial of the cops. I'm sorry, but nothing excuses this level of violence against an unarmed man. But, I guess, if you're a white male, you really can do no wrong.


Blogger phillyjay said...

I don't know the whole story just yet, so I'll hold of my judgement for now.But from the looks of it he was beaten pretty badly.If he attacked the police, or resisted arrest, then no sympathy from me.If not, then there is definalty something wrong with those cops.

10/11/2005 06:43:00 AM  
Blogger R. Mildred said...

Even if he did attack the cops, this level of violence is too much, all they had to do was handcuff him and take him away, which it seems like they could have done long before beating him to a bloody pulp.

also, the CNN piece says that the three officers were white, what about that 4th guy who you can plainly see getting involved there in the screen caps?

10/11/2005 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Sandals said...

phillyjay, holy shit, did you even *look* at the last picture? You're fucking kidding me! Four cops around, I can think of virtually nothing that would justify them beating the shit out of them! Even if the 64-year-old retired schoolteacher took a swing at them (which there is no reason to believe), so what! Are they policemen, or thugs?

10/11/2005 09:20:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Incommensurate force is always wrong and unprofessional. Period. I don't care if the 64 year old guy did or didn't take a supposedly drunken swing, a professional (let alone FOUR professionals) should be able to take this guy down without injury to anybody.

And WTF are they saying about "drunkenness in public"? NOLA wouldn't have an economy but for drunkenness in public, that's the basis of its tourist industry. NOLA ENCOURAGES drunkenness in public.

I do feel some sympathy for the generality of the NOLA police, as they have been functioning under lousy conditions, with family far away, but dearly hope that the defense attorneys don't sully the names of the more professional police members by saying this was the inevitable result of battle fatigue.


10/11/2005 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger Steve-o said...

"If he resisted arrest, no sympathy," huh?

So ridiculous. I guess the police are the bosses of us all. If they say we did something, then we don't need a judge or jury. The police always have the benefit of the doubt.

This is ON FILM, my friend. It's freaking Kristallnacht in America, and all you can do is whine about how no one gives the police a chance to present their side of the story.

10/11/2005 11:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the Chai Vang comment, it's a little disingenuous to toss that out there without also noting that all but one of the murdered hunters were unarmed and several were actually shot in the back while running AWAY from him. He was one man versus seven...every single one of them ends up shot, most of them fatally, and he doesn't have a scratch on him. That doesn't make it sound all that much like self-defense, IMHO.

In regards to the central issue of the post, I agree it is disgusting to see them continue to beat an elderly man who doesn't appear to be struggling in any way. This is a clear case of brutality, and it's a little sick of the cops to blame stress for this behavior.

10/11/2005 12:00:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

anonymous, i'm not excusing what vang did. but, at the same time, it's clear to me that vang didn't just walk up to a bunch of men and open fire -- he felt threatened, as would anyone, i think, who is approached and surrounded by a group of hostile men yelling racial epithets at him. Yes, he opened fire and that was wrong, but why does the media and the law refuse to address the fact that Vang felt his life was in danger?

If you were alone in the wilderness and swarmed by men of a part of a race that has constantly harassed, belittled and been derogatory to your community, with men threatening your life would you feel in danger?

The problem is that, when we examined the chips as they fell, we found out that many of the hunters were not armed (some were, by the way). How was Vang to know that in the heat of the moment given their threatening behaviour?

10/11/2005 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's no problem, Jenn. I agree that we do not sufficiently address racial issues in this country and in fact are too often content to ignore them, as was so perfectly illustrated in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.

I guess it was just the "if Vang was white and murdered six people he'd get a medal" bit that really rankled me. But I also understand your frustration on this issue. I know there were racial issues in this case, because the actions of locals against innocent Hmong following the murders were reprehensible. Hell, some bastard stood outside the courtroom holding a sign saying "go back to your country" or some such hateful ignorance.

But for me, and I'm only going by what was out in the media so know that the jury was in a much better position than any of us to make an informed decision, there were too many other details that leaned a little too far away from straight-up self-defense. It wasn't the first time Vang had threatened someone with a gun, for example. He first told the police that Terry Willers had murdered all of the hunters and forced him to watch, in addition. Just weird stuff like that.

As a member of a bi-racial family whose mother cannot even tell her bigoted extended family that she is married to a Hispanic man (we're estranged from them, but I really prefer it that way from the stories she's told me about them), I also feel a great deal of frustration with the way that race is(n't) really dealt with here in America. My father Jesus noted that perhaps now those white hunters will stop and think before they pick on someone they don't even know, but I still just can't get over the fact that so many people ended up dead that afternoon.

Note: I meant to sign the bottom of my earlier post as I do not have a blogger account. Sorry about that.

--Andrea (in Madison, WI...very nearly called to be on the Vang jury, actually)

10/11/2005 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger James said...

Everyone's being kind of hard on PhillyJay, but he brings up a good point - Black people who attack police officers are not given sympathy in the United States, for any reason. In order to preserve order, and to protect police, most citizens see violence toward police as always wrong and improper.

However, I don't believe that was the case here.

CNN, FNC, and MSNBC report today that Robert Davis, a 64-year-old retired teacher, claims that he was asking a N.O.P.D. officer for the curfew time when another officer interrupted. Davis says he spoke about the second officer as 'unprofessional', started walking across the street, and was punched. He doesn't remember much after that, other than a female bystander screaming "he didn't do anything!"

Let me be clear. Hurricane Katrina unveiled the stark racial and economic difference America preserves for Black people today to the world stage. Yes, police officers are overworked and underpaid, especially in New Orleans.

But I don't care.

This same type of 'law and order at any cost' mentality results in too many African American casualties to be chocked up to an unfortunate isolated incident. Lying in a pool of your own blood should not be the result of asking an officer a question. No one should be fired at, punched, wrestled to the ground, pummeled, choked, or otherwise beaten for being the wrong shade at the wrong time.

I'm sick of the only truly American victims being little lost White women. I hope those police officers never see their badges again.

10/11/2005 04:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't say that I'm suprised....

That being said, why are so many people suprised at the violence showed by the NO police? Forget the fact that they are white. Skip the fact that the man is black. Throw race into the discard pile for a moment. A 64 year old retired teacher gets beaten to a bloody plup by, not one, not two, but three, and possibly a forth, police officer! An enforcer of law. A trained individual for situations like this. What they were trained, however, was simply ignored, or dispersed to the dark corners of the mind.

Ok, let's say that somehow, a force of nature can make a person stark raving mad, mad enough to beat a person senseless, even if that person seems to be at a point where he cannot defend himself properly. Let's say that this person is stressed, stressed enough that he cannot command his own emotions about what has happened to his city. Does that mean he should be let off the hook with a slap on the wrist? Hell no.

Let's throw race back into the deck now. If Robert Davis was white, and the officers remain the race they are, would it still be an issue? Of course. Then again, the fact that Robert Davis is now white, the little bit of evidence that he was drunk would have been omitted in the news reports. That's right. I'm saying that because Robert Davis was a black man, they (police and news) had to throw that in there, as if a man, being drunk, in New Orelans, had something to do with his behavior. He supposedly asked a question, and because he was intoxicated, got half his face beaten in for it. Hmmm. Makes me wonder if Amadou Diallo would have taken the beating instead of 41 shots, or if Rodney King would have prefered to have gotten shot at instead of being beat down.

There is NO excuse for police brutality, no matter if the officer is white, black, or otherwise. I have to agree with James. Victims don't come in just one color or sex. And if you disagree with that, then have a look at that tape one more time.

10/11/2005 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger phillyjay said...

To steve-o and everyone else:

I usually give cops the benifit of doubt even in a situation like this.I don't think police are the bosses of us all, but I do have a ton of respect for them.I figure if any police officer is going to go this far they better have a really good reason, like someone resisting arrest to the point of putting people in danger, or really (phyically) threating a police man/woman life.So I'm going to keep a close eye one this case and see what evidence turns up and after I hear both sides of the story.I'm not ruling anything out just yet.

10/14/2005 04:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10/16/2005 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

eloquent use of the english language. plus, your sensitivity is overwhelming.

10/16/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cant believe what i saw i'm from London and when i saw that on the news i felt so sick. It goes to show that racism is still out there no matter how much people justify. Black people are still slaves we are still going through similar things our four fathers went through 100's of years ago. Britian is just as bad its just more undercover at least the Americans are more open about racism. It goes to show that we as black people need to stand up together instead of hating each other and killing one another. we need to help our brothers and sisters.

10/18/2005 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This sort of Police brutality is enough to make any sane and thinking person wonder about this country and the ethics we claim to adhere to – shame on you. These officers of their own law are despicable criminals. If three others guys and me did this, we would be charged with criminal battery and numerous other charges and do at least a couple of years in prison. Racism is still rife in LA, and let's face facts...these cops represent Saddam's former regime and not a real, honorable American force. If they claim they do, and they do, then God help us all, as we are not capable of helping ourselves. My solution for these guys is to take them to Africa and have them stand trial like Saddam in Iraq.

This behavior needs to be punished, and letting them stay at home with or without pay is not punishment. I don't care if the guy was resisting ‘arrest’ or not - these young thugs should be in prison. If Mr. Davis was 65, then that's battery on the elderly and the FBI guy who jumped on him...he is probably a wife beater, a secret abuser, a bully, a vulgar and violent animal and control freak and should be taken to the stadium during a game and let 20 other 6ft 6, guys take him down by the balls... Nazi and a criminal coward - resign now you bastard and go and do the right thing - suicide now and let us know when you do, so that we can watch on TV - you won't be missed!

10/18/2005 10:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed it, those people deserve to be beat!!!!! Its too bad that people like you cant stand the beauty of beating the shit out of a worthless race of people. They deserved it just for being who they are

11/01/2005 08:22:00 PM  
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