Over the past week, protests have broken out nationwide over police brutality, the targeting of Black people and the lack of accountability for these actions.
The death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers last week ignited the furor, but the anger goes far beyond that one incident. At the heart of the debate is whether the police have too much power and commit acts of discrimination and violence with impunity. The word of the police is given the ultimate weight and authority in a dispute.
The police have been out in full force responding to the anti-racist protests. And their overwhelming response to the accusations of violence and unchecked power has been more violence and unchecked power.
“People started this conversation by saying policing is out of control; they’re not making the situation better. They have not been reformed,” Alex S. Vitale, author of “The End of Policing,” said in a recent NPR interview. “Well, now all you have to do is turn on the nightly news and see how true that is. The level of aggression and unnecessary escalation is stark evidence of how unreformed policing is, and I argue how unreformable it is.”
Patrick Skinner, a former CIA officer who is now a Georgia police officer, says a central problem is that law enforcement sees itself fighting a “war on crime.” That mindset is contributing to the overreaction by the police to the peaceful protesters.
“Ninety percent of what we’re seeing are protests. Police should just sit back. They shouldn’t have overwhelming force. … That amps things up. Now granted a riot, when people are hurting ― I mean, police officers have been attacked, people have been killed, lot of damage. I get that. But we use that 1% and we treat the 99% like that. And that’s exactly what police training does,” he said. “Every situation is not just can be dangerous but will be dangerous, because we’re in a war on crime. Anybody can kill you.”
The actions of law enforcement over the past week have given new life to movements that want to defund the police. At the very least, it seems more people will be questioning law enforcement officers when they claim that you can trust them, that they did nothing wrong.
Below are just a few of the incidents that were caught on video or by reporters. Imagine what happens when there are no cameras.
Police shove older man, who then bleeds from his head.
Police officers in Buffalo, New York, shoved a man to the ground after he walked up and talked to them. It’s not clear what he was saying. The man hit the ground and immediately began bleeding from his head.
“During the skirmish involving protesters, one person was injured when he tripped and fell,” the Buffalo Police Department initially claimed.
The Buffalo police commissioner later suspended two officers involved in the incident after public outcry.
Black store owners looked for help from police, were handcuffed instead.
On June 1, a group of community members and employees at a liquor store in Los Angeles were trying to stop looters from ransacking their store. They needed assistance and tried to flag down passing police.
But when the police arrived, officers immediately handcuffed the store owners and employees and let the looters get away ― even after a reporter on the scene told the police they had the wrong people.
“Sir, they’re the store owners, they’re protecting from the looters,” KTTV reporter Christina Gonzalez said. “They’re protecting the store! The looters went that way!”
“I was flagging down the police with the owner, asking, ‘Can you guys help?’” one of the community members, who identified herself as Monet, later told Gonzalez in an interview. “I was handcuffed, thrown up against a wall with my husband and brother-in-law, and I’m like, ‘What the h***?’”
Black CNN reporter arrested live on air.
On May 29, Minneapolis police officers arrested CNN journalist Omar Jimenez while he was broadcasting live. He clearly identified himself as a journalist and told them he was happy to move wherever they needed him to go to get out of the way. Two members of his crew were also taken away.
Josh Campbell, a white CNN journalist who was in the area, said he was treated very differently. Police also told him to move, but when he identified himself, he was allowed to stay.
HuffPost reporter Christopher Mathias was also arrested while peacefully covering protests in New York City, even though his press credentials were clearly visible.
Protester with his hands up taken down by police while giving a TV interview.
Police rushed Myles Carter, who was standing in the street in Buffalo, New York, and giving an interview to a local TV station. Carter had his hands in the air as he was speaking. Police ran up, tackled him and arrested him.
Police gassed and bashed peaceful protesters to clear the way for a Trump photo-op.
U.S. Park Police, on the orders of Attorney General William Barr, cleared out peaceful protesters near the White House so that President Donald Trump could walk across Lafayette Square for a photo-op in front of a church. How they did it was, quite frankly, horrifying.
Officials later claimed that they told protesters to disperse three times, but reporters and demonstrators did not hear those orders, if they were given. A chemical agent was fired into the crowd, along with flash-bang grenades. Law enforcement has denied releasing tear gas, even though many people there said it was clearly used.
Police were also caught on video bashing Australian journalists.
The U.S. Park Police said it has placed two officers on administrative leave while it investigates the incident.
It’s important to note that many of the incidents getting attention involve journalists, simply because they are often filming and have outlets to speak to their experiences.
Police pull college students from a car and stun them with a Taser.
Brutal video showed Atlanta police officers surrounding a car and pulling a young man and woman out, shocking them both with a Taser. The Associated Press reported that the man, Messiah Young, was stopped in traffic and appeared to be recording officers pulling another man out of a car.
Young refused to open his door when an officer approached, saying, “I’m not dying today.” Officers then ran up to both sides of the car, using a stun gun on Taniyah Pilgrim as she tried to get out of the car. They then bashed Young’s window with a baton and shocked him with a Taser as well.
They claimed he had a gun, but there was no gun.
Six officers were charged after public outcry.
Police knock down older man with a cane when he doesn’t move fast enough.
In Salt Lake City, a police officer apparently didn’t think a man who was walking with a cane was moving fast enough and shoved him to the ground.
“I thought they were just coming down the street, and all of a sudden they came charging at me,” said James Tobin, 67. Tobin also has leukemia.
He said he had arrived 10 minutes earlier to take some pictures.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown called the next day and apologized to Tobin.
NYPD rams SUV into a crowd of people.
In a horrifying video, a New York City police vehicle drove straight into a crowd of protesters who were standing in front of it.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) defended the police, saying, “I wish the police officers hadn’t done that, but I also understand that they didn’t start the situation. The situation was started by a group of protesters converging on a police vehicle attacking that vehicle. It’s unacceptable. So the police officers have to get out of that situation.”
Two people who were in the crowd at that time said de Blasio clearly was misrepresenting what happened.
“As we marched non-violently down the street, the police drove up to us in an apparent attempt to force us off the road. No one was blocking their SUVs from behind,” Sarah Zapiler and Zachary Tomlinson wrote in the New York Daily News. “The police created the situation and if they truly wanted to leave without hitting anyone, they could have backed away. Instead, they escalated the confrontation by driving forward, using their vehicles like weapons with blatant disregard for protesters’ safety.”
After continued public criticism, de Blasio later said he didn’t like what he saw “one bit” and announced an independent review.
LAPD batters protesters with batons.
Los Angeles police officers were captured on video beating peaceful protesters with batons.
Police shove, shout expletives at Associated Press journalists.
New York City police officers surrounded and shouted at Associated Press journalists who were covering the protests on Tuesday. They were covering the action just after the 8 p.m. curfew, when an officer came up and told them to leave. They replied that they were allowed to be there, as members of the media.
“I don’t give a s―-,” one said. Another told them to “get the f―- out of here you piece of s―-.”
Police fired tear gas at protesters in Virginia before curfew.
In Richmond, Virginia, on Monday, police fired tear gas on peaceful protesters ― even though it was 30 minutes before the city’s curfew.
The Richmond Police Department initially justified using the tear gas, saying officers “were cut off by violent protesters” and the tear gas was “necessary to get them to safety.” The department backed down from that statement a few hours later, and the police chief eventually apologized.