WASHINGTON: A policing human rights horror that has thrived uncontrolled for decades is starting to unfold in the United States, which for decades has lectured the world on civil liberties.
Several buried accounts of rampant cops killing black men with impunity are surfacing following the police murder of George Floyd that has ignited a movement for racial justice across the country, and across the world. In some instances, the black men have uttered the same last words Floyd gasped as he died under the knee of a policeman in Minneapolis: “I can’t breath” – which has become a rallying cry of protesters.
In the most vivid case to surface this week, a 40-year old black postal worker was chased by a police officer in Austin, Texas, for 22 minutes in March 2019 because he failed to dim the headlights of his SUV for oncoming traffic. When police eventually caught up with the man Javier Ambler, 40, a father of two kids, they tasered him four times even as he told deputies he has congestive heart failure and couldn’t breathe.
“He cried, ‘Save me,’ before deputies deployed a final shock. His death never made headlines,” the local media reported this week in the aftermath of the Floyd murder, describing how the entire episode was filmed by a crew filming a television program called LivePD (Police Department).
In a separate case, a New Mexico cop is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter after he allegedly used a vascular neck restraint on a man during a traffic stop in Las Cruces in February this year. Police body camera footage shows a struggle involving Antonio Valenzuela, who died after officer Christopher Smelser was heard saying, “I’m going to f**king choke you out, bro.”
Elsewhere, police in Oklahoma City, under pressure from BLM activists, released body camera video of a deadly incident in May 2019 between officers and Derrick Ollie Scott, a black man who was heard saying “I can’t breathe,” before dying.
Authorities are reopening investigations into such cases as they now catch national attention, even as there is an outcry against TV programs such as LivePD and COPS (which has since been pulled off air) that glorify the police. In fact, HBO Max announced Tuesday that it was pulling from its lineup the legendary film Gone With The Wind, a movie that some critics say glosses over the racist antebellum (pre Civil War) South, until it can “return with historical context.”
Statistics compiled by the U.S media show the American police have shot and killed nearly 5000 people over the past five years at the rate of nearly 1000 every year.
The country’s mostly white police force meanwhile is fighting back with support from President Trump amid a raging debate about defunding the police, even as Congress and many local legislatures are pushing for rapid police reforms including banning strong-arm methods and demilitarizing them.
“This Radical Left agenda (defunding) is not going to happen,” Trump said on Wednesday, describing the demand as “crazy” and alleging in a separate tweet that “For the first time in history, Police Organizations & National Security Organizations were used to SPY on a Campaign, & there was no basis for it.”
Some police unions too asserted that they are being demonized by sections of the media and the public and they are not enemies of the community they serve. “We are portrayed in the press and everywhere else as the enemy and we want people to know that we take our jobs seriously, we’re professional, and the vast, vast majority of the time we act appropriately and honorably,” a New York Police Benevolent Association spokesman told a TV channel.
But incidents of racist white provocation continue to make news even as George Floyd’s brother arrived on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify before a Congressional panel. In one egregious incident, two brothers in Franklinville, NJ, were captured on video staging a mock re-enactment of the Floyd murder against the backdrop of an American flag and a Trump banner, even as a BLM protest passed by. One of the brothers, who worked for FedEx, has been fired by the company and the other sibling, has been suspended by the New Jersey Department of Corrections where he worked.
In a separate incident, a white cop in Oklahoma argued that according to his interpretation of crime data, police should actually be shooting black Americans more frequently because they committed more crimes. Who in the world in their right mind would think that our shootings should be right along the U.S. Census lines? That’s insanity, Maj. Travis Yates of the Tulsa Police Department, argued in one radio show, saying, “All of the research says we’re shooting African-Americans about 24% less than we probably ought to be, based on the crimes being committed.”
Floyd brother Philonise meanwhile told lawmakers in his testimony that his brother did not deserve to die over $ 20 and it is upon them to make sure his death is not in vain.
“I can’t tell you the kind of pain you feel when you watch something like that. When you watch your big brother, who you’ve looked up to your whole life, die. Die begging for your mom,” he said of the now infamous video showing his brother being killed as police chased him down for allegedly trying to transact with a fake $ 20 bill. “If his death ends up changing the world for the better—and I think it will—then he died as he lived.”