Just Because You’re Paranoid, Doesn’t Mean You’re Wrong pt.3 (Eric Garner, John Crawford, Mike Brown, and the Value of Video)

With the news yesterday that the grand jury in the Michael Brown case is under investigation, it seemed like a good time to look at the broader situation going on between law enforcement and the African American community.

Since July 17th (the day Eric Garner was chokeholded to death), there have been at least 8 incidences of fatal or near-fatal encounters between members of law enforcement and African Americans. Remarkably, a number of them are on video.

Since I’ve been writing about the situations around Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and John Crawford there have been some who have written me privately telling me that I don’t understand these incidents from the law enforcement perspective and that, in essence, I (and many other African Americans) really am being paranoid.

Is it really paranoia when one sees video like this? And even if it is paranoia, is it really wrong?

At what point do African Americans get the benefit of the doubt when giving their stories of encounters with law enforcement?

The police who killed John Crawford will not see trial in state court in Ohio even though the video shows that he was doing nothing wrong inside that Walmart.

Eric Garner was walking down the street and the video shows that at the time the police encountered him, he was not selling “loosies” (as it is said the police were going to arrest him for).

Levar Jones (the video above) was parked in a gas station and getting out of his car when confronted by a state trooper who, had he been a better shot, would have killed him.

But the only reason we know about these is because of video.

There is no video in the case of Michael Brown. And the standard tropes are being pulled out by supporters of Darren Wilson. You know them, right? Mike Brown “lunged” at him. He tried to “get his gun”. He was “menacing”.

Yet I wonder if the situation would be any better if there was video. If the cops who killed John Crawford didn’t get charged; we have no idea what the grand jury in the Eric Garner case is going to do; and there are now questions of misconduct in the Michael Brown grand jury.

So it is really paranoia to believe that the system works against African Americans, no matter what kind(s) of evidence exists.


One thought on “Just Because You’re Paranoid, Doesn’t Mean You’re Wrong pt.3 (Eric Garner, John Crawford, Mike Brown, and the Value of Video)

  1. The Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution says:

    “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

    Given the power of police and prosecutors, these principles need to be extended, particularly to police. All peace officers (now there’s a quaint term!) should be residents “in the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…” in order to be “impartial” while engaging in the speedy and public trial — which goes on in each officer’s mind when deciding whether to arrest, to shoot, or to warn. Probably the most disturbing thing I have heard in listening to voices out of Ferguson is the Great Lakes accent of that police chief, in a Mason-and-Dixon-line locality. Where is Ferguson recruiting? How many Fergusonians would love to serve their own city, but can’t break in.

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