Tag Archives: police brutality

Gut punches keep coming

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

My gut has been getting punched repeatedly with news reports that just sicken it … and me!

It’s not enough that we had an insurrection against the federal government six days into the new year. Nor is it enough that we impeached a president for the second time as a result and then endured another acquittal of the guy who should have been convicted and tossed out of office the first time.

We keep hearing about and watching news reports of police officers shooting African-American men in incidents that make me wonder: Would this happen if the individual being rousted were a white guy? Protests are mounting. They have turned into riots.

It’s giving me tremendous anxiety as I watch this from my quiet neighborhood. All this unrest, this anger, this anxiety looks to me as if it has the potential of exploding into a hideous national crisis.

A former Minneapolis cop is on trial for murder in an incident that killed a black man; a young African-American was shot to death by a Minnesota cop, who then quit along with her boss, the chief of police; a black Army officer was pepper-sprayed in December by a white officer in Virginia.

The victim in Minneapolis was killed after he sought to pass a counterfeit bill; the young man died in nearby Brooklyn Heights after he was stopped because he hung an air freshener from his rearview mirror; the Army officer was pepper sprayed because he didn’t have a license plate on the rear of his motor vehicle, which he had just purchased. 

These are just the most recent instances of violence being committed against black Americans by police officers who, um, are not black.

Man, this is disheartening and frightening. I am weary of all these gut punches.

No excuse for looting

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

This should go without ever saying it, but I feel a need to state the obvious.

A young man is dead tonight from a gunshot fired by a Brooklyn Center, Minn., police officer who thought she was pointing a taser at the young man. Instead, she fired her service pistol at his chest. He drove his car away, crashed it and then died on the scene of the wreck.

The response in nearly Minneapolis and in other communities has resulted in looting, vandalism and violence. It has been launched against people who have not a single thing on Earth to do with what happened to the young man, Daunte Wright.

President Biden issued a statement, declaring there to be “no justification” for violence. He acknowledges the right of those who want to protest peacefully. The president’s message likely will be ignored by the looters.

Two things about this case are astonishing in the extreme. Daunte Wright was a young black man; the officer who shot him is white. Moreover, the incident occurred about 10 miles from where a highly publicized trial — with former officer Derek Chauvin being charged with murder in the death of George Floyd — is under way. Floyd was black; Chauvin is white. You know the story about what happened to Floyd.

As USA Today reports: Biden stressed there is “absolutely no justification” for looting and violence.

“Peaceful protest is understandable,” he said. “And the fact is that we do know that the anger, pain and trauma that exists in Black community in that environment is real – it’s serious, and it’s consequential. But that does not justify violence.”

He added: “We should listen to Dante’s mom who is calling for peace and calm.”

Biden calls for ‘peace and calm’ after Daunte Wright shooting sparks protests in Minnesota (yahoo.com)

Is it me or do we seem to be entering a whole new phase of civil unrest, the likes of which many of us never have experienced?

What I want to know is this: How in the name of serving and protecting the public does a trained police officer mistake a taser for a fully armed service pistol?

Why do we care?

A friend of mine in Amarillo posted a question on Facebook that wonders whether we should care about what pro football, hockey, baseball, soccer and basketball players think about police brutality.

I told him “I do” care. A lot.

Pro athletes are protesting the shooting of a young black man in Kenosha, Wis., who police shot at seven times, hitting him with four rounds in the back. The young man, Jacob Blake, is paralyzed; it might be permanent paralysis.

Meanwhile, a white teenager allegedly killed two protesters who were marching for justice in the earlier mentioned case. He walked past police officers with an assault rifle. He was allowed to go home that night. He surrendered the next day. I won’t mention the alleged shooter’s name because I don’t want to give him any more publicity than he deserves.

The first incident involved a man who was fleeing the cops. He had turned his back on them. They shot him with a Taser, then with a pistol. The other one involved a young parading down the street brandishing a rifle, yet no police officer thought to question him.

Again, the first man is black; the second man is white.

That is why the pro athletes are upset. It is why they are boycotting the games they are supposed to play.

It also is why their voices are worth hearing and heeding as they seek justice in an unjust world.

It’s ‘phony patriotism’

If the National Football League and the National Basketball Association are able to get their seasons started, we should prepare ourselves for another round of what I call “phony patriotism.”

It will come from those who object to players “taking a knee” while they play the National Anthem. Americans will object to the demonstration of peaceful protest against police brutality. They will assert that kneeling during the Anthem disrespects the flag, the men and women who fight to defend it as well as our way of life.

Donald Trump says he will turn off football games the moment he sees players kneeling. No doubt he will wrap himself in the flag, perhaps even hugging and kissing the cloth stitched in red, white and blue. He’s going to pitch for legislation making flag-burning a violation of federal law.

Except for this bit of history: The U.S. Supreme Court has stood firmly behind what the flag represents. The court has ruled that burning the flag is a form of political protest, which the Constitution protects in the First Amendment.

I want to stipulate once again that I revere the flag. I stand proudly for it. I went to war in defense of what that flag represents. No one who ever seeks to make a political point by burning that flag should do so in front of me.

But the return of pro sports may well be upon us. Major League Baseball has begun — more or less — and yes, players have knelt during the Anthem. The NFL and the NBA seasons are scheduled to begin soon.

I will await the phony patriotism and will dismiss it for what I believe it is: a demonstration of cheap showmanship.

Back the Blue = dog whistle

A bit of a tempest might be brewing up yonder in the Texas Panhandle, in a publicly owned county complex and I am trying to connect a few dots to make some sense of it.

Some Carson County employees have plastered “We Back the Blue” signs in the courthouse complex in Panhandle, the Carson County seat. I don’t know what “We Back the Blue” means to you, but to me it’s a dog whistle, one of those thinly disguised messages that carry a double or possibly triple entendre. The signs are hard to read in the picture attached to this blog post.

Thus, I am concerned that a publicly owned structure is being used as a forum for a partisan political message. What is the message as I see it being portrayed?

It is that suggesting that you “back the blue,” you support the police that have become rhetorical targets of the Black Lives Matter movement. You know the history, yes? BLM comes from the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of cops, some of whom have been charged with felonies in connection with those deaths.

If you “back the blue,” do you dismiss the BLM movement? Or do you support both the Black Lives Matter and the We Back the Blue movements?

Why am I even talking about this? Well, Carson County sits in the heart of Trump Country. Carson County voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016 and is likely to do so again in 2020. Donald Trump, as you no doubt understand, has been highly critical of the BLM, calling it a movement based on “hate” for the cops.

Can you connect those dots with me on this?

“We Back the Blue” is a political statement that presents enough of a concern to me over whether it’s intended to denigrate another political movement. Therefore, it doesn’t belong in windows of a publicly owned government structure that must — under law — serve all the residents of that jurisdiction regardless of political leaning.

Just think of the irony

Irony can be a real bitch … you know?

Let us consider two issues dealing with “respect for our troops” and whether we can make any sense of them.

Donald Trump has been foaming at the mouth over the sight of pro athletes “taking a knee” to protest police brutality while they play the National Anthem. “Throw the SOBs out!” Trump bellows, contending that such a form of protest disrespects the flag … as well as disrespecting the men and women who fight on behalf of that flag.

Are you with me?

Now we have the distressing news about Russians paying bounties to the Taliban for killing American service personnel. Reports have seemingly confirmed what has been divulged, that the Russians have paid the money. The question now is when Trump knew about it.

His reaction to the initial reports has been, shall we say, much less visceral than he has been in reacting to athletes kneeling during the National Anthem.

This brings to mind a puzzle I am trying to solve. If the president is going to demand that we respect our troops by standing proudly, with hands over their hearts, while we sing the National Anthem, then where is the outrage over reports that Russian goons are paying bounties for the lives of our priceless treasure?

My goodness, Donald Trump’s relative passivity over these reports is more than disconcerting. It is reprehensible, disgusting, disgraceful. It speaks volumes to me — as well as to others — about the seeming lack of sincerity from Trump about the respect he demands for our fighting men and women.

The irony of these two examples — taking a knee and silence in the face of evidence of threats to our fighting warriors — is hideous in the extreme. I only can conclude that Trump’s alleged love and respect for our troops in battle is as much of a sham as his version of the presidency.

U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney — a Utah Republican — was right in 2016 when he called Trump a “phony and a fraud.” I implore the rest of the country to wake up to what has been patently obvious about this con man all along.

We need compassion, empathy from Oval Office

I’ve given you a wish list of things I hope a President Joe Biden would do were he to take office next January … but I have one more item to add.

We have witnessed a president who is fully incapable of expressing genuine, sincere empathy and sadness over the plight of Americans and Lord knows we have endured plenty of tragedy during Donald Trump’s tenure in office.

The pandemic. Repeated gun violence. The deaths of African-Americans at the hands of rogue cops. Natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Where in the name of humanity has the compassion gone from the office of president? Donald Trump is incapable of exhibiting it.

I want the next president – and I do hope it is Joseph R. Biden Jr. – to return empathy to the office. I want the next president to lead a nation that is suffering.

Joe Biden isn’t uniquely qualified to offer such compassion and empathy. I mean, many of us have experienced tragedy in our lives. Donald Trump, for heaven’s sake, lost a brother to alcohol abuse, so he, too, has suffered grievous loss. Trump, though, just isn’t wired to convey that grief into meaningful and authentic mourning on behalf of others.

Biden, though, has gone through hell. His first wife and daughter died in a tragic automobile accident in 1972; his two sons were seriously injured. Young Joe had just been elected to the U.S. Senate and he considered giving it up to care for his sons. He decided to stay in office. He endured loss and powered through it, raising his sons as a single dad … until he met the next love of his life, Jill, who – as Biden has said – “saved our life.”

Then his older son Beau became ill with cancer. He would die and then force the vice president to bury a second child. As has been said many times already, that is a parent’s worst nightmare.

I want a president who is able to convey that loss in a way that translates across the land. The nation is hurting. Illness is sickening and killing too many of us. I want a president who’s been tested by intense grief and has learned the lessons of how to cope, to survive and to seek restoration of his own human spirit.

A president of the United States can use that knowledge to lead a nation out of its collective grief.

Ex-cop faces some serious prison time

I’ve seen the video. You have, too. We’ve all seen it. The video is stomach-churning and heartbreaking.

Rayshard Brooks got stopped by Atlanta police. They tested his sobriety after finding him asleep in the drive-through lane at a Wendy’s restaurant.

He took a Breathalyzer test and came up slightly inebriated. He offered to walk to his sister’s house just a few blocks away. The cops sought to handcuff him instead. Brooks resisted; he wrestled a Taser stun gun from one of the cops; he ran away.

The cop — Garrett Rolfe — shot him in the back … twice while he was fleeing, running for his life. Brooks died later in a hospital.

Now the cop is charged with felony murder. This looks like a legitimate accusation to level at the former officer.

The ex-cop is white; Rayshard Brooks was black. It is another case in a distressingly long line of cases involving white police employing the heavy hand of the law on a young African-American. To think, as well, that this case happened while the nation is still reeling from the George Floyd case in Minneapolis, where another white officer snuffed the life out of Floyd, a black man who allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit bill.

Oh, my goodness. When will we learn? Ever?

‘Defunding’ = ‘reform’

I dislike the phrase “defund the police,” which has become all the rage — pun intended, really — across the nation these days.

Individuals and groups of Americans are angry at police departments over the way many of them treat African-Americans. They contend that the cops are much rougher and tougher on black citizens than they are on white folks.

Indeed, the videos we have seen — such as the George Floyd video in Minneapolis, which has spawned so much of the anger — tell a grim tale of “systemic racism” that many folks believe runs rampant in police departments.

If “defund the police” means “reform the police,” then why not call it what it is … a move to enact fundamental reform of police departments?

I don’t believe these efforts to “defund the police” means that communities will go without police protection. Cities such as Minneapolis, though, are taking gigantic steps toward redirecting police funds to other programs intended to assist communities in need.

My hope for all this anger is to see police departments, even those that haven’t been caught up in the swirl of controversy, enact meaningful reform. By “reform,” I intend to mean that the reforms will produce dramatic improvement in community/police relationships.

Every department, given the tenor of the times and the extreme anger being expressed all across the nation, would do well in this moment to examine carefully how their officers are being trained to respond to incidents involving  everyone they serve. That means black citizens, white citizens, immigrants … you name it.

Are they ensuring even-handed treatment of everyone with whom they come in contact? That is where reforming the police can begin.

Antifa getting a bad rap

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This post was published originally on KETR.org, the website for KETR-FM, based out of Texas A&M-Commerce.

“Antifa” as become a four-letter word in some circles around the nation.

It is meant as a sort of shorthand for a group that opposes fascism, as in “anti-fascism.” Of course, it has morphed into a more militant sort of operation. Of late, though, it has been blamed for fanning the flames of discontent and discord on our city’s streets in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic killing in late May by Minneapolis police officers who were arresting him for – get this! – allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

National Public Radio, though, has done some research on the conspiracy charges being leveled against “Antifa” and has found no credible evidence that the organization has sought to energize protesters, turning them into vandals, looters and rioters.

According to NPR: U.S. Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly blamed anti-fascist activists for the violence that has erupted during demonstrations over George Floyd’s death, but federal court records show no sign of so-called antifa links so far in cases brought by the Justice Department.

NPR has reviewed court documents of 51 individuals facing federal charges in connection with the unrest. As of Tuesday morning, none is alleged to have links to the antifa movement.

Of the cases brought so far, 20 involve allegations related to arson; 16 involve the illegal possession of a firearm, more often than not by a felon; another eight people face charges related to inciting a riot or civil disorder.

That doesn’t sound like a widespread Antifa conspiracy to me.

But it continues to resonate in many quarters around the country. I prefer to think of the protests as a legitimate reaction to an appalling demonstration in Minneapolis of police arrogance. We have heard the concerns expressed already too many times in other cities and towns about cops treating African-American detainees differently than they treat others. What the nation has seen via video recording is precisely the kind of policing that protesters insist must stop.

I want to add a brief post-script to all of this.

North and Northeast Texas have seen their share of demonstrations against the horror that revealed itself in the Twin Cities. There have been “unification” rallies in Princeton, Farmersville and Greenville. People have marched in Greenville, calling for an end to racism and brutal conduct. I attended a rally in Princeton where protesters didn’t march, but instead observed an 8 minute, 46 second moment of silence in George Floyd’s memory.

I am proud that we have kept our composure while lodging this legitimate redress of government policies.