By Fletcher Allen, Opinion
The viral video of a 75-year-old man being pushed to the ground, cracking his head and blood seeping out of the wound, has angered Americans, but this video is only a small part of a much larger picture of police brutality.
Tear gas, batons and rubber bullets are being used by police forces to disperse mostly peaceful protests all over the country.
Police shot rubber bullets at a reporter and their camera crew in Louisville, and used tear gas to disperse protestors in over 100 cities.
Journalists like CBS Minnesota’s Tom Aviles was struck with a rubber bullet and arrested and CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and crew were arrested on live TV.
Tear gas is outlawed for use in warzones by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ (OPCW) 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention.
How is this an appropriate response to overwhelmingly peaceful protestors and reporters?
Individual protestors and media outlets are guaranteed the right to assemble and voice their opinion by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The Supreme Court, in past cases deciding what is and what is not protected under the First Amendment ruled that, “time, place, and manner restrictions are permissible so long as they ‘are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, . . . are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and . . . leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information,’” according to legal reference librarian, Andrew Winston. (Note: “narrowly tailored to serve a specific purpose.”)
Curfews extending 12 hours, police forces clad in military gear with numbers almost matching the protestors and using banned chemical weapons, all being used in the name of keeping peace and dissuading violence and looting, do not fall into that category.
But it seems that whenever there is violence, rioting and looting, this mass of police is nowhere to be seen until the damage is done.
Why do the police not make a move on looters as quickly as they do on peaceful protestors?
Police are supposed to uphold the virtue of “protect and serve.”
On the first night on protesting in Birmingham, that went left very quickly, police exercised a very measured response and seemed to make a very purposeful effort to not get involved.
Imagine. Just imagine if that foresight and patience was afforded to George Floyd.
Or even the black journalist doing his job, as he said “I am press” over and over, only to be carried off frame in cuffs?
We could’ve used that professional restraint when police sprayed tear gas into the eyes of peaceful Huntsville protesters — one of whom was under the age of 5.
How is aiming a rubber bullet rifle directly at a journalist and their crew protecting and serving?
How is using a potentially lethal gas to disperse peaceful protestors protecting and serving?
In an increasingly uncontrollable situation, the only thing that meeting masses of unarmed protestors with violence is going to do is further threaten and harm citizens.
All it will do is incense the very issue people in this country have taken to the streets to protest in the first place.
When you hear the calls of people in the streets asking for more training for the police… this is it.
How many militarized vehicles could be traded in for valuable time spent working with new recruits and oldheads on the force who need a refresher in de-escalation?