I've read my share of columns on police abuse and the police state. I've seen my share of videos on YouTube of police abusing people for the most mundane things like speeding, riding a bike on a sidewalk, riding a bike down the street, and, civil, non-violent protest.
But until just recently I hadn't experienced it myself firsthand. I was down in Chinatown in Washington DC for dinner and a movie. After leaving the movie theater I noticed cops parked on the side of the road in front of the movie theater. These cops had out their little pen lights and they were randomly pulling over passing drivers.
I crossed the street and saw a small gathering of other folks standing there watching what was going on. Each asking the other: “do you know what they are doing?” Nobody seemed to know for sure but we all know what it looked like. It looked like a scene out of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia: you papers please.
As we all stood there looking on a black teenager came whizzing by us on his skateboard. He skated across the street, past the cops and on down the road. As the cops saw him skate by they yelled something at him that was too intelligible for us to understand. I would imagine it was too intelligible for the skateboarder to understand as well because he turned and looked and kept on his way another 20 feet or so.
That's when our heroic blue uniformed doughnut feeders leapt into action like Boy George at a Liberace concert. They took off running at full speed after this felonious social miscreant who so arrogantly and willfully didn't kowtow to the fact that they said something.
Once the young man saw the cops running after him he voluntarily stopped his skateboard and stood there in the street waiting for the eggheads to catch up. Once they did they grabbed him as if they had cornered the devil himself and cattle rustled him up onto the sidewalk and up against the wall. They forcibly held one arm behind his back and the other against the wall up over his head, spread his legs and searched his person. I took a snapshot of this position with my cell phone:
As I stood there I could hear the police disciplining the young man on the error of his ways. How when they say to jump his only option is to ask: how high? Of course, being in possession of a functioning frontal lobe, the young man insisted that he had done nothing wrong but the tax feeders didn't care. They simply kept repeating that he was told to do something and he didn't and therefore evidently had forfeited his civil rights.
In the end the young man received a citation for J-walking, I kid you not, since he didn't cross the street on the crosswalk. Unfortunately, it would seem that J-walking in China Town in DC is tantamount to suspected armed robbery so please use those crosswalks.
Unfortunately, this particular incident also gave me yet another opportunity to observe the sheep like hypnotic stupor that most Americans seem to exist in. While the young man was pinned up against the wall somebody walking by recognized him and asked him what was going on. The young man explained the civil injustice taking place and pleaded that the acquaintance remain as a witness to what was taking place to which she replied: “oh, you'll be okay, I'm late for something, I'll see you at church on Sunday”!
I could just feel the attitude in the air that night. Everyone witnessing this scene no doubt felt that this young man must have done something very bad, very wrong otherwise why would the police be chasing after him? No doubt they felt that if it had been them that they would have somehow deserved it because after all: the law is the law.
I remember growing up in the 70's and 80's, we were taught that everything to do with communism, especially Russia, was bad. That communist countries were evil governments and evil empires which abused citizen's civil rights and might one day try to do the same to the U.S. They represented everything that was bad in the world and the U.S. represented everything that was good and we must fight the evil for the sake our humanity.
Is my picture above really so different than this one of Russian police arresting peaceful civil rights protesters?
Or this one from communist China:
Then why do people continue to see the U.S. through rose colored glasses? I just don't get it. I guess that's why I drink.
December 5, 2009
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