Let’s see. Louis Gates, a senior citizen, renowned professor at Harvard, walking with a cane, is arrested by the Cambridge police in his own home, for…shouting at a cop? He violated the first rule of encountering the police force: never antagonize an officer. Still, what are the odds he would have been arrested if he hadn’t been black? Much smaller, I’d say, but not zero!
…Or half-empty? As usual, it depends on how you look at it.The NYTimes reported today that hundreds of demonstrators that were arrested during the Republican Convention last summer have been exonerated, charges against them dismissed, as defense lawyers have presented videotape to the courts that flatly contradicted the testimony and charges of the police. One officer was “involved” in several arrests where he was not physically present. Another protester was arrested for violently resisting arrest, while the videotape shows him going along quietly with the police taking him into custody…for what? A radio report played audio of an officer using a bullhorn to give instructions to marchers: “Stay in a line, march two by two, don’t obstruct traffic, and you will be able to complete your march without incident.” After he finished, police surrounded the marchers with tape and arrested them all. Does the right (hand) know what the left (hand) is doing??
I have no trouble believing that this is all true, and more, because in my participation in several demonstrations over the last few years, I have seen the NYPD in several guises. At the first big anti-Iraq protest, the police were rude, disorganized, oppressive, and obstructionist. The fact that there wasn’t a lot of violence is due, I believe, to the demonstrators who were interested in making their views known, not running amok. I definitely felt that my rights to protest were unfairly limited. At the next major demonstration I attended, the police were polite, organized, and everything went very smoothly – democracy is wonderful! For the demonstrations during the Republican Convention, the police were also polite, and VERY well organized. So well organized in fact, that they created a sort of cordon sanitaire comprising vast swathes of midtown. Not surprising that some officers would take their marching orders to be the removal of any and all unofficial persons in the area, demonstrators or no. Bravo to those who were ready with the video!
So much for the glass being half empty, what about half full? The spokesman for the NYPD was quoted as saying that despite all the hours poring over video by the critics, no examples of police brutality were uncovered…Well, true enough!! And thank you so much for not subjecting me to a beating while I exercised my constitutional rights. I appreciate it.