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Posts tagged Tennessee

Wednesday Lazy Linking

Welcome Farkers: I noticed (from the massive surge in impacts on my web server) that this post — in particular, Jourdon Anderson’s letter to his former captor, which I originally found through stuff white people do (2009-04-28) — was recently featured on the front page of Fark.com. I’m flattered; and presumably this also means that for the time being I’ll be getting a lot of readers who are more or less new to the blog. By way of introduction, to who I am, where I’m coming from, and what I care about, you might check out the links at GT 2009-01-29: Welcome, Antiwarriors.

For reference, I’ve also written many other articles on the topic of slavery, and on the ways in which we talk about, or don’t talk about, the history of slavery. See particularly: GT 2005-01-03: Robert E. Lee owned slaves and defended slavery, GT 2008-04-18: Just shut the fuck up, GT 2006-03-21: The humane slave-driver, GT 2006-03-04: Republican virtue (or: the Man who would be King).

  • Quote for the Day: After the end of the Civil War, many former slavers tried to contact the black men and women they had once enslaved — even those who had escaped during the war and headed north — to try to convince them to return to the plantation and work the land as hands or tenant farmers. One of those freedmen, Jourdon Anderson, wrote a letter back to his former captor, explaining the terms on which would return. This may be my favorite thing that I read all week. Emphasis is added.

    Dayton, Ohio, August 7, 1865

    To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson
    Big Spring, Tennessee

    Sir: I got your letter and was glad to find you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can. I have often felt uneasy about you. I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this for harboring Rebs they found at your house. I suppose they never heard about your going to Col. Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable. Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living. It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee. Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this. I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville hospital, but one of the neighbors told me Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

    I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me. I am doing tolerably well here; I get $25 a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy (the folks here call her Mrs. Anderson), and the children, Milly, Jane and Grundy, go to school and are learning well; the teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher. They go to Sunday School, and Mandy and me attend church regularly. We are kindly treated; sometimes we overhear others saying, Them colored people were slaves down in Tennessee. The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks, but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Col. Anderson. Many darkies would have been proud, as I used to was, to call you master. Now, if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

    As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost Marshal General of the Department of Nashville. Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you are sincerely disposed to treat us justly and kindly–and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you. This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future.

    I served you faithfully for thirty-two years and Mandy twenty years. At $25 a month for me, and $2 a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to $11,680. Add to this the interest for the time our wages has been kept back and deduct what you paid for our clothing and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to. Please send the money by Adams Express, in care of V. Winters, esq, Dayton, Ohio. If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past we can have little faith in your promises in the future. We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night, but in Tennessee there was never any pay day for the Negroes any more than for the horses and cows. Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

    In answering this letter please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up and both good-looking girls. You know how it was with Matilda and Catherine. I would rather stay here and starve–and die if it comes to that–than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

    Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

    From your old servant,

    Jourdon Anderson

    The letter was reprinted by Lydia Maria Child in her anthology, The Freedmen’s Book. Jourdon Anderson’s body now rests in the Woodland Cemetary, in Dayton, Ohio, so it seems that his old captor never accepted his offer. For reference, the back wages he demanded — $11,680 in 1865, before adding interest — would be worth about $162,452 in 2008 dollars.

    Discovered thanks to stuff white people do (2009-04-28)

  • The invasion begins tomorrow: SubRosa community space (2009-05-02): First Ever Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence! May 7-11. The Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence is coming to town! Yes, here, between the forest and the ocean, among the students and the yuppies, where Santa Cruz anarchists have fostered a close-knit community dedicated to destruction of this world and the creation of another. Santa Cruz is a hub of anarchist culture and resistance, with a long history of radical struggle and active anarchist projects spanning decades. Santa Cruz is proud to host the Santa Cruz Anarchist Convergence, a four-day anarchist event for building community and resistance and sharing radical ideas.

  • More one-way mirror transparency (+): Jesse Walker, Hit & Run (2009-04-23): In Bailouts End Responsibilities.

  • On crony-statism, state capitalism, and living in a bubble: Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom (2009-05-01): Of, by, and for the elite

  • Libertarianism or Barrbarism? Roderick Long, Austro-Athenian Empire (2009-05-04): More Crap from the Libertarian Party (with a hat tip to Soviet Onion in the comments back here). In which the Libertarian Party sends out a press release urging the United States government to control the border, escalate the use of police-state checkpoints against immigrants, and consider all would-be immigrants diseased until proven healthy.

    I’d be pissed if I weren’t beyond caring about anything the LP says or does. Individual party members are often perfectly good people, and well worth talking to, and well worth inviting to something new and better; but the party, as an organization, is worth taking notice of only as an enemy, to be shoved out of the way along with the rest of the belligerent busybody Know-Nothing creeps.

  • He’s wasn’t using it, anyway: Mike Gogulski (2009-05-03): Steal this number: 595-12-5274

  • More on decentalism and localism: A couple of comments from Darian Worden following up on the recent monster thread here: DarianWorden.com (2009-04-27): Individualist International and DarianWorden.com (2009-04-30): Stick It To Your Kind. Whether or not I agree with Darian about multiculturalism depends on what the word’s being used to mean (there’s a lot of different things called multiculturalism, some of them descriptive theories about American history; some of them normative theories; some of them overtly relativistic; others universalistic; etc.). Otherwise, twinkles.

  • On the production of knowledge in a peer-to-peer society: Michel Bauwens, P2P Foundation (2009-04-27): Ryan Lanham: dissolving universities?. I think that the discussion underestimates the importance of architecture and physical space in creating scholarly community; I think it also underestimates what I think would be the most noticeable effect of less businesslike, more mutualistic universities, without the distorting effects of state funding and state-imposed accreditation systems — that they would be smaller, more numerous, and less oriented towards churning out professional degrees in subjects that would be better taught completely outside of the university setting, if not for the political-economic distortions that shove them into institutional structures where they don’t belong. I also protest the notion that there’s something wrong with esoteric subject-matters or that best-selling authors, just as such, somehow have a better grip on what’s relevant than scholars working intensely on a tightly-focused subject. (Surely they have a better grip on what’s relevant to people outside the University. But that’s not necessarily the kind of relevance that a University ought to be concerned with.) But I agree that Universities are set for a radical change, in an increasingly peer-to-peer world, and that the change will involve less institutional aping of business, a more mutualistic orientation, and hopefully less credentialism. It’s an important discussion and this is a good start.

  • I’ll never finish the Internet: Dare Obasanjo, (2009-05-05): RSS readers modeled after email clients are fundamentally broken. Actually, I’m inclined to say that presently-existing e-mail clients are also fundamentally broken, although they call for a different sort of fix.

  • Shameless Self-Promotion opportunities: Jeremy Trombley is now running a regular What Are You Up To? Wednesday feature.

Oh for Christ’s sake

I don’t at all agree with Bash Back’s tactics. For a lot of reasons. But this ain’t one of them:

Look at the Civil Rights movement, I dont see minorities storming anything and doing this sort of thing and look what we have in the White House. I hope those guys are all arrested and fined.

This is stupid, Marquette County, Wednesday, November 12, 2008 at 8:07 a.m.

O.K.; let’s look at the Civil Rights movement.

Black students storm the whites-only Blue Boar cafeteria and sit in. Louisville, Kentucky.

Black students sit in at a whites-only lunch counter. Nashville, Tennessee, February 1960.

Sit-in at a whites-only Woolworth’s lunch counter. Jackson, Mississippi, 28 May 1963.

Black students arrested for storming a whites-only library and illegally reading in it. Jackson, Mississippi, 1961.

Oh, and while we’re at it:

Eric Evans and other members of the Afro-American Society announce the end of their 36-hour takeover of Willard Straight Hall at Cornell University. 20 April 1969.

You know how you can tell when some discussion in mainstream politics is going to have absolutely nothing to do with the history of the Civil Rights movement? Answer: if it starts out with someone saying Look at the Civil Rights movement….

See also:

No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter… (#5)

… But it must just be the summer heat, right?

In Maryland, a state police Red Squad spent a year and change infiltrating anti-death penalty and anti-war groups, and put the names of nonviolent activists onto terrorist and drug-trafficking watch lists:

The ACLU released 43 pages of [Maryland] state police summaries and computer logs Thursday – some with agents’ names and paragraphs blacked out — that it obtained from the state attorney general’s office through a lawsuit based on Maryland’s Public Information Act.

The files depict a pattern of spying and surveillance over a 14-month period in 2005 and 2006. During that time, agents infiltrated the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a peace group; the Baltimore Coalition Against the Death Penalty; and the Committee to Save Vernon Evans, a death row inmate.

Police entered the names of activists in a law enforcement database of people suspected of being terrorists or drug traffickers, the documents show. Police officials said they did not infringe on the protesters’ freedom; the ACLU said that nothing in the documents indicated criminal activity or intent.

Many of the spies’ reports seem innocuous. In one, an agent who attended a gathering of the Evans group noted that activists discussed the stance that a candidate for Baltimore County state’s attorney might take on the death penalty.

Yesterday, [former Maryland Governor Bob] Ehrlich said on WJZ-TV that he was sympathetic to the principle that police should not spy on groups when there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

But he added, We pay state police to make decisions, and obviously they bring discretion with them to their jobs every day, so their job on a daily basis obviously is to weigh the relative value of intelligence they’ve received and to make decisions accordingly.

— Jonathan Bor and Gus G. Sentementes, Baltimore Sun (2008-07-19): State police spying decried

For example, one of the decisions that cops accordingly make is to harass, assault, restrain, and imprison innocent people who try to photograph them and document how the cops are treating the people they interact with. (Apparently this intelligence thing isn’t a two-way street.) They are, of course, happy to invent completely fictional crimes based on nonexistent laws in order to do so. Thus, in Johnson County, Tennessee:

Nearly everyone carries a cell phone and it’s hard to find one without that camera feature. It’s convenient when you want to take that impromptu photo, but a Tri-Cities area man ended up behind bars after snapping a shot of a Johnson County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop.

The cell phone photographer says the arrest was intimidation, but the deputy says he feared for his life.

… A Johnson County sheriff’s deputy arrested Scott Conover for unlawful photography.

He says you took a picture of me. It’s illegal to take a picture of a law enforcement officer, said Conover.

… The deputy also asked Conover to delete the picture three times.

He said if you don’t give it to me, you’re going to jail, said Conover.

Under the advice of the Johnson County attorney, the sheriff would not comment and the arresting deputy said he didn’t want to incriminate himself by talking to us.

— Darius Radzius, WJHL (2008-07-11): Man Arrested For Unlawful Photography

Carlos Miller elaborates on the same case:

Gangsters in Blue Ben May and Starling McCloud

Update: I talked to Scott Conover Wednesday morning and he said they delayed his court appearance to Sept. 3rd, which sounds familiar because they kept doing the same thing in my case. (I was arrested last year for photographing cops against their wishes). In my case, I took it as a sign that they were hoping the delay would cause the media interest to die down.

After arresting Scott Conover for unlawful photography in Mountain City, Tennessee last June, Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Starling McCloud threatened to arrest Conover’s 12-year-old daughter with the same charge after she snapped two photos of her father getting handcuffed.

As it turns out, she is a better photographer than her father because she actually managed to photograph the camera shy deputy.

… It won’t be the first time [Scott Conover has] faced off against the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office in court.

A couple of years ago, we had problems with the sheriff, so we sued them and settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, he said.

But the problems started even before that, after he witnessed deputies beating a man in front of the restaurant/bar he owns.

They beat the shit out of him, he said. The guy’s lawyer came back and took witness statements. When the statements made it back to the sheriff’s department, they came by and asked me why I was getting involved.

Not long after that, deputies started staking out his business, Jammers Rocking Road House, which he said is modeled after the Tiki Bar in Key Largo.

They were wolf-packing my customers, he said. They would lie and wait for them to leave and then pull them over to see if they had been drinking.

Conover struck back by suing them.

… On the night of his arrest, Conover and his family had left the Last Chance Saloon after picking up the nightly earnings and were on their way back to Jammers. His wife was sitting in the passenger’s seat. His son and daughter were in the back seat.

Up ahead were a group of customers who had just left the bar. A Johnson County Sheriff’s deputy, who was parked along side of the road, pulled over the car with the customers.

The lady who was driving doesn’t drink, he said. Her husband, who does drink, was sitting in the passenger’s seat.

Conover pulled up to the scene and stopped his Hummer in front of the traffic stop. He asked his son for his IPhone, then rolled the window down and said:

Hey fellas, I’m just getting your picture.

Then he snapped the photo. Deputy McCloud — who has been on the force only 18 months — told him that photographing him was illegal.

I asked, what planet are you from?, Conover said.

McCloud started threatening to arrest him if he did not delete the photo, which as it turned out, did not even capture the deputy.

Conover’s wife even asked her husband to just hand the deputy the IPhone, but he refused. The deputy kept threatening him with arrest if he didn’t delete the photo.

The deputy then ordered Conover out of his car.

I threw the phone back to my daughter and told her to keep taking photos.

By then, two Mountain City police officers had pulled up to the scene, including Kenneth Lane and Ben May, who is in the dark uniform in the above photos. McCloud placed two sets of handcuffs on Conover, who is six-feet tall and weighs 270 pounds, and apparently looked as if he could break out of a single pair of handcuffs.

Conover’s daughter snapped two photos before McCloud threatened her with arrest.

He started trying to get in my Hummer and get to the back seat where my kids were. I told him, You better not go back there or else we’re going to have some real problems, he said.

McCloud decided against arresting the daughter.

At the jail, Conover asked McCloud if had ever heard of the First Amendment.

He then turned to me and said, I’m charging you with disorderly conduct.

Thirty minutes later, after McCloud had left the jail — and had time to think of what other charges he could come up with — he called the jailer and added another charge against Conover; pointing a laser at an officer.

— Carlos Miller, Photography is Not a Crime (2008-08-05): Deputy threatened to arrest 12-year-old daughter for unlawful photography

Meanwhile, in Ohio, posturing macho paramilitary cops gunned down an unarmed woman holding nothing other than her baby boy. They fired high-powered rifles, blindly into a room they couldn’t see, because they saw a shadow on the wall during their cock-swinging commando SWAT raid. Please remember that cops are hired and trained to keep you and me safe, so obviously no matter how many unarmed women these heavily armed, trained professionals mow down in a wild attempt to save their own skins, the warrior mindset means never having to say you’re sorry.

A Lima, Ohio jury has acquitted police officer Joseph Chavalia of involuntary manslaughter in the death of 26-year-old Tarika Wilson. Chavalia shot and killed Wilson and wounded her infant son during a drug raid last January. Wilson was unarmed.

During the raid, one of Chavalia’s fellow officers shot and killed the two dogs owned by Wilson’s boyfriend and the target of the raid, Anthony Terry. Chavalia testified that he mistook his fellow officer’s shots at the dogs for hostile gunfire coming from the bedroom where Wilson was standing with her child. Chavalia then fired blindly into the bedroom.

The jury concluded that Chavalia reasonably feared for his life when he heard the gunshots. I guess they were then willing to overlook Chavalia’s mistaking an unarmed woman holding a baby for an armed drug dealer, and the fact that he fired blindly into a room without first identifying what he was shooting at. It’s too bad that that same sort of deference isn’t given to the people on the receiving end of these raids when they too understandably confuse the police officers who wake them from sleep and invade their homes for criminal intruders.

— Radley Balko, Hit and Run (2008-08-05): Lima, Ohio SWAT Officer Acquitted in the Killing of Tarika Wilson

Over in Chicago, the arbitrary governor over the state of Illinois has declared that what Chicago needs is yet another elite tactical team to patrol inner city neighborhoods, complete with state troopers and military helicopters.

Calling violence in Chicago out of control, Gov. Blagojevich on Wednesday offered to lend state troopers and National Guard helicopters to the city to augment the Chicago Police.

The governor is considering forming an elite tactical team to help the Chicago Police fight gang problems, a source said, adding that the unit could later be sent across the state to deal with gang problems at any city’s request.

— Chicago Sun-Times (2008-07-17): Gov. says Chicago out of control

Meanwhile, the Fighting Uruk-Hai of Arizona proposes that we ought to combat inner city crime using the strategic hamlet surge tactics that have made for such a brilliant success in the occupation of Iraq.

We might look at what Rudy Giuliani did in New York City, when he became mayor of that city. … And some of those tactics, very frankly — you mention the war in Iraq — are like that we use in the military. You go into neighborhoods, you clamp down, you provide a secure environment for the people that live there, and you make sure that the known criminals are kept under control. And you provide them with a stable environment and then they cooperate with law enforcement, etc, etc.

Do you feel safer now?

(Stories via Darian Worden (2008-07-18): Martial Law 2008, Manuel Lora @ LewRockwell.com Blog (2008-08-02): The Fascist McCain On Solving Neighborhood Crimes, Ali @ ThinkProgress (2008-08-01): McCain suggests military-style invasion modeled on the surge to control inner city crime, etc.)

See also:

Law and Orders #8: Memphis cop Bridges McRae “exceeds expectations” by punching Duanna Johnson repeatedly in the face with handcuffs over his knuckles for failing to stand up on command in the booking area at 201 Poplar

(Via Thus Spoke Belinsky 2008-06-20.)

Trigger warning. The following videos of local news stories include graphic footage of extreme physical violence by a male police officer against a woman in his custody.

Cops are here to protect us by arresting a black trans woman on charges of possibly being willing to engage in consensual sex acts that violated nobody’s rights, then throwing her in a booking area as a lead-up to locking her in a cage, then using transphobic and homophobic slurs when ordering her to get up in order to be fingerprinted for having allegedly committed this non-crime, and then, should she refuse to get up in response to that kind of language, and instead go on sitting in her chair, threatening nobody, cops are here to protect the hell of of her by getting up in her face, wrapping a pair of handcuffs around their knuckles and bashing her head in with them over and over again, while sheriff’s deputies stand around and do nothing, and while a fellow cop runs up to hold her down in her chair — stopping eventually to pepper spray her, handcuff her behind her back, and then leave her lying helpless on the floor.

Please note that, according to Memphis Police Officer Bridges McRae, refusing to immediately follow a police officer’s bellowed command over a minor matter of paperwork is a crime which can rightfully be punished by a vicious gang beat-down. And according to the rest of the Gangsters in Blue on the scene, it’s a situation which calls for standing aside, or actively rushing to the aid of, their gang brother — and to hell with the suspect woman being assaulted.

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) — Video obtained by Action News 5 shows a Memphis police officer beating a suspect at 201 Poplar in an apparent case of police brutality.

The video, recorded February 12th, shows Duanna Johnson in the booking area at the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center after an arrest for prostitution. The tape clearly shows a Memphis police officer walk over to Johnson — a transsexual — and hit her in the face several times.

Actually he was trying to get me to come over to where he was, and I responded by telling him that wasn’t my name — that my mother didn’t name me a faggot or a he-she, so he got upset and approached me. And that’s when it started, Johnson said.

Johnson said the officer was attempting to call her over to be fingerprinted. She said she chose not respond to the derogatory name the officer called her.

He said, I’m telling you, I’m giving you one more chance to get up. So I’m looking at him, and he started putting his gloves on, and seen him take out a pair of handcuffs, Johnson said.

The officer hit Johnson several times with the handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles. In the video, you can see the flash of the metal. The tape shows another officer holding Johnson’s shoulders as she tries to protect herself.

After taking several blows, Johnson stands up and swings back.

I was afraid. I had had enough. Like I said, I thought the other officers that were witnessing this would at least try to stop him, Johnson said. I mean, he hit me so hard. Like the third time he hit me, it split my skull and I had blood coming out. So I jumped up, Johnson said.

But then she sat back down, and the officer her in the face again. Then he maced her. On the tape, other people in the room are seen turning away and fanning their hands because of the smell.

. . . On the tape, Duanna is eventually handcuffed and left on the floor. A nurse comes in, and goes directly to the officer.

I couldn’t breathe, and they just made me lay there, Johnson said. Nobody checked to see if I was okay. My eyes were burning. My skin was burning. I was scared to death. Even the nurse came in and she just ignored me, and I begged her to help me.

— WMC-TV (2008-06-18): Video shows police beating at 201 Poplar

Officer Bridges McRae, Gangster in Blue

James Swain, Gangster in Blue

After this brutal gang assault committed in full view of a security camera and several witnesses, McRae had the audacity to file a charge of assault against Duanna Johnson. And then to file an internal affairs complaint against the detective in the booking area for standing by and doing nothing, instead of joining in on the beating.

This happened back on February 12th. At the time that it happened, the D.A. dropped all charges against Johnson. The rookie cop who held Johnson back in her chair during the beating, James Swain, lost his job. On the other hand, Bridges McRae, the thug who was actually bashing the poor woman’s head in, was given a paid vacation from street duty (at a $49,000 / year salary) for four months, pending an administrative disciplinary hearing, which he repeatedly delayed using sick leave and other excuses, after which he finally lost his own job. Neither of these brutal and dangerous thugs has yet faced any criminal charges for this videotaped assault.

Meanwhile, the Fraternal Order of Pigs has provided McRae with a lawyer, who is helping him appeal the decision to fire him from the police force. The lawyer wants you to realize that the mere evidence of your senses is no reason not to give a violent cop the benefit of the doubt:

McRae is the officer seen in the video repeatedly hitting Duanna Johnson in the booking area at 201 Poplar. McRea had arrested her for prostitution, but the charges were later dropped.

In the video, you can see McRae hitting Johnson with what appears to be handcuffs. Memphis Police Association attorney Ted Hansom, representing McRea, said Thursday that handcuffs were not used as a weapon by the officer.

Once it starts, the handcuffs were out to handcuff that person, Hansom said. You don’t have time to say let me put these down and then we will resume this.

Hansom said the video shows a different story when it is slowed down. . . . Hansom said the video is not the whole story, and it will be his job to explain it all.

. . . The video shows McRae hitting Johnson in the face. She was also pepper sprayed. But it also shows Johnson hitting McRae at least once.

Hansom points out that there is no audio on the video so you do not know what is being said.

He also said McRae had reason to believe the 6 Feet 5 inch Johnson was a threat. Hansom said he has studied the video.

I saw some actions on the complaining party. So if they are coupled with statements or prior conduct or dealing with this person and knowing the size of that person might put you in apprehension of what’s going to happen, Hansom said.

— WMC-TV (2008-06-19): McRae’s attorney says video is not the whole story

Along the way this class act demonstrates his sensitive awareness of issues surrounding police brutality in some communities:

The way he is being depicted with just this video tape. It doesn’t tell the story. It’s the Rodney King approach [sic!]. Lets look at a few minutes of video and make our decisions. It’s not that simple, Hansom said.

— WMC-TV (2008-06-19): McRae’s attorney says video is not the whole story

And informs us that merely refusing to refuse an order to stand up, while you are in a secure area, is apparently enough to count as a threat to the safety of a heavily armed cop surrounded by other cops:

Hansom said the video shows a different story when it is slowed down. He said it is clear Duanna Johnson could easily have been considered a threat, because she was in a secure area and was refusing orders from Bridges.

— WMC-TV (2008-06-19): McRae’s attorney says video is not the whole story

The Shelby County Sheriff’s Department, which runs in the jail in which McRae beat the hell out of Duanna Johnson, is mainly concerned to deny any responsibility (because their flunkies stood by and did nothing but watch in the course of this brutal beating), and to launch a criminal investigation into who finally made this tape, which should have been public knowledge four months ago, available to the newsmedia.

I know, I know. In any big police department there are A Few More Bad Apples, and every now and again there is just going to be Yet Another Isolated Incident. Sometimes life is like that. Terrible things like this just happen. Sometimes there are no red flags, no real warning signs.

McRae was fired after an administrative hearing for beating a transgendered woman he arrested Feb. 12 for prostitution. The video, which didn’t record sound, showed the officer repeatedly hitting Duanna Johnson in the intake area of the Shelby County Jail at 201 Poplar. Johnson said McRae made derogatory remarks. McRae is shown hitting Johnson and then using pepper spray.

McRae’s personnel file showed only three reprimands for minor offenses during his nearly four years on the force. His latest evaluation said he exceeds expectations.

— Memphis Commercial Appeal (2008-06-27): Officer fired over beating had accusers

Here are some of the ways he exceeded expectations.

Who would have ever thought that Bridges McRae might do something like this to a black trans woman in prostitution?

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting tidbit about Memphis police department procedure:

Police Director Larry Godwin said if an officer receives multiple complaints, the department may move the officer to another precinct to see if the complaints continue.

— Memphis Commercial Appeal (2008-06-27): Officer fired over beating had accusers

When Catholic bishops engage in this kind of practice with priests accused of child sexual assault, it’s called a conspiracy and a massive cover-up. When the boss cops do it, it is treated as if it were a perfectly mundane bit of bureaucratic detail, as just so much business as usual.

The comments on the local Memphis newspaper stories are actually more encouraging to me than I expected them to be. I’m heartened to see as many people as I do with the empathy and the courage necessary to speak out about this kind of outrage in public, and to call out the Mephis Police Department as an institution. But there is also the usual sado-fascist howling that you would expect, and the usual efforts to use absolutely any prejudice available against the victim of violence in order to smear her, ridicule her, and exonerate the cops for absolutely anything they might do to her. If you needed any more convincing on this point, take this as evidence that, even if it is on tape, even if it is in a public place in front of a crowd of witnesses, if you fall under one or more demographically suspect categories, there is absolutely nothing a cop could do to you that would be so low, so vile, so obviously over-the-top, or so brutal that cop couldn’t still count on hordes of Law-‘n’-Order creeps to befoul every public forum with victim-smearing and fabricated excuses on his behalf. He can fully expect that no matter what he might do, in full view of other police officers and a camera, still other officers will either stand by and do nothing, or come running to his aid, and that unless the tape reaches the media, he will almost certainly never face any personal consequences whatsoever for doing it. If he had walked up and shot her in the face I wouldn’t expect anything more to happen to him than what has happened to him so far. The Gangsters in Blue get each other’s backs, and it’s likely that nothing would ever have happened to him at all, beyond yet another unfounded complaint being recorded in his closed IA file, except for the fact that somebody bravely defied the law to get this tape out to the newsmedia.

The truth is, when every fucking week brings another story of a Few More Bad Apples causing Yet Another Isolated Incident, and the police themselves almost invariably doing everything in its power to ignore, cover up, excuse, or minimize the violence, even in defiance of the evidence of the senses and no matter how obviously harmless or helpless the victim may be, it beggars belief to keep on claiming that there is no systemic problem here, that cops ought to be given every benefit of the doubt, or blanket condemnations of policing in major American cities are somehow a sign of hastiness or unfair prejudice against good cops. The plain fact is that what we have here is one of two things: either a professionalized system of violent control which tacitly permits and encourages cops to exercise this kind of rampant, repeated, intense, and unrepentant abuse against powerless people–or else a system which has clearly demonstrated that it can do nothing effectual to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.

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No, seriously, I could swear the water in this pot is getting a little hotter….

You already knew that Chicago patrol cops are planning to carry M4 assault rifles in the inner city and Springfield, Massachusetts cops plan to switch to black, military-style uniforms in the inner city in order to restore a sense of fear.

But wait, there’s more.

In Tulare County, California, the county sheriff’s office has formed a new, dedicated Gang Unit to engage in saturation patrols of the south end of town, to pull over suspicious cars (any guess on what color suspicious drivers are likely to be), get in the faces of suspect young men (any guess on what the color of those faces will be?), and generally to make sure that certain members of the public are afraid to use public spaces. By putting more heavily-armed police officers on the streets, they claim to be taking weapons off the streets. Gang Unit mouthpiece Sergeant Harold Liles says that the purpose of all this letting them know we are here, and the streets belong to us.

In Wilmington, Delaware, a new charter school is in the planning stages. It will enroll as many as 600 inner-city high school students — or rather, Cadets — for training in jobs for the front lines in the Nation’s [sic] homeland security. The Academy will require its teenaged cadets to wear uniforms, give them extensive physical training during and after school, offer homeland security training as an after-school activity, and offer a choice of vocational curricula ranging from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) through prison guard, water rescue, paramedic, fireman, professional demolition and emergency response operator.

Meanwhile, in the great northwest, Montana Highway Patrol used to carry M14 rifles in the trunks of their patrol cars in case of an emergency. Soon they will all be carrying AR-15 assault rifles strapped to the front seat of the car. Montana Highway Patrol mouthpiece Jerril Ren says that For the most part, they’re trying to make them [high-powered assault rifles] more readily available to the officer and said that the higher-powered guns were necessary for now-common tactical situations.

The Palm Beach County, Florida sheriff’s office is now training and arming regular cops on the beat with AR-15 assault rifles.

Inner-city patrol cops in Miami have also been carrying assault rifles for the past few months, at the behest of city Police Chief John Timoney.

Johnson City, Tennessee patrol cops were already armed with handguns and shotguns. Now they have started a new weapons program to ensure that at least some patrol cops are carrying other, special weapons on every patrol shift. They won’t say in public what those weapons are or how many they are putting onto the streets.

The Washington County, Tennessee sheriff’s office just got a grant from the federal government to arm their patrol cops with AR-15 assault rifles.

And if you’re wondering why all these stories have suddenly hit the news so close to each other, over just the last month, in so many different cities and counties, my suspicion is that you’ve got the answer right there: the United States federal government, which spent the past 30 years or so involving itself in state and local law enforcement agencies through the use of tax-funded training, grants, and equipment sales for paramilitary SWAT teams and anti-terrorism task forces, now seems to be making use of those same grants to more heavily arm and more thoroughly militarize ordinary patrol cops on the highway, in the inner city, and in rural sheriff’s offices.

Do you feel safer now?

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