With the preponderance of cameras in modern life, everyone is being filmed all the time, and fortunately for the American public, so are the police.
By David Todd McCarty | Tuesday, June 2, 2020
The young black couple was leaving the protest in Atlanta Saturday and got stuck in traffic on still busy streets, when they were targeted by police because the driver, 22-year-old Messiah Young appeared to be filming them take another young black man, identified later as Chancellor Meyers, into custody despite his pleadings that he hadn’t done anything wrong.
Police officers turned on Young and his girlfriend, 20-year-old Taniyah Pilgrim, and attempted to rip open their doors, ultimately smashing a car window with a baton, firing tasers, and pulling them from their car. All without provocation or cause.
In video taken from police body cams, as the car window shatters from a police baton, an officer uses a stun gun on Young and officers pull him from the car as officers shout, “Get your hand out of your pockets,” and, “He got a gun. He got a gun. He got a gun.”
Once out of the car and on the ground, officers zip tied Young’s hands behind his back and led him away. No gun was ever found and didn’t appear in any police report.
Video of the incident went viral, where the couple can be heard screaming and asking officers what is happening, causing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and police Chief Erika Shields to determine from body camera footage that the officers had used excessive force, leading them to charge six officers over the incident and fire two others. According to reports, Young’s arm was fractured and he suffered a cut requiring 24 stitches when he was pulled from the car. Young told investigators that an officer who escorted him from the scene after his arrest punched him in the back more than 10 times as they walked.
The officers have been asked to turn themselves in by the end of the day Friday, to face charges ranging from aggravated assault and battery to criminal damage. Mayor Bottoms requested that all charges against the two youths dropped.
Both Young and Pilgrim are seniors at historically-black colleges in Atlanta. Young, from Chicago, is studying business management at Morehouse College. Pilgrim, who’s from San Antonio, Texas, is studying psychology at Spelman College. They might easily have been yet another statistic, from precisely the sort of abuse that these protests are centered on, and probably both would have had an arrest record, if not for the prevalence of video cameras in everyone’s hand and pocket, and police body cameras that had not been switched off.
It is no mystery then, that so many reports have been filed from journalists all over the country concerning entire police departments covering their badge numbers and faces, as well as turning off their body cameras. They obviously have no intention of being held accountable for their offenses, not as long as the President of the United States and his Attorney General completely disregard our civil rights and make it clear to police across the country, that they have their backs no matter how many laws they break.
The very idea that these protests are a direct reaction to police brutality and extrajudicial killings at the hands of out of control police officers, only brings this rampant crisis into sharper relief as the catastrophe that is the militarization of police is on full display hourly on social media, for all to see.
As the country gasps in horror and disbelief, once again, Black America shakes its collective head, wondering what it will take before we believe what they’ve been trying to tell us for decades.
The fact that this particular incident ended only with two terrorized youth, a broken arm and 24 stitches, is a testament to the prevalence of video cameras and power of the media. Any justice, additionally, can be contributed to the election of a black, female mayor, a female police chief, and the widespread use of body cameras on police.
So you have to ask yourself, out of the tens of thousands of incidents in the past few days, how many were not captured on film? How many were not reported or seen by witnesses? How many officers were either not wearing, or had turned off, their body cameras?
And what of all the other times, in the dark of night, without the focus of media attention, where a police car pulls over a couple of black kids in a car and things go sideways? What then? Who tells that story? The police?
You don’t need a very vivid imagination to know that civil rights are not held to an equal standard in America. We are being led by an administration that thumbs its nose at the rule of law, except where it benefits them to terrorize people of color and those who oppose them politically.
So while we are seeing a constant stream of video documentation of the protests, where it sometimes seems as if there are more people filming than protesting, this too will die down, and be forgotten in the barrage of outrage this administration produces, and no one will be there to witness the next time a police officer decides that he too, is above the law.
So how do we take advantage of this situation, while we have a small strategic advantage and world’s eyes upon us? Now is the time to press for real reform, not empty words or speeches. If we can’t cut out the legs of the police unions and their power over politicians as a people, and take our country back from armed bigots, we will be doomed to continue this charade with increasing frequency. The police have the weapons, the will, and the backing of the current administration, but we have the momentum and the moral authority to move this country forward.
The time to demand real reform is now, in this moment, and to offer the powers that be no quarter, as Sen Tom Cotton of Arkansas suggested recently, although he was speaking about his desire to see the protestors rounded up illegally and punished severely. No rest and no peace until the authorities realize their only way out of this crisis is to make the difficult decisions they have so far been too afraid to make.
Meanwhile, keep the cameras rolling.