Friday, April 03, 2015

Confederate "Heritage" Month, April 3: The politics of police violence

Will Bunch reports and comments on one reaction to the massive violence against African-Americans by police across the country in Should more black people carry guns? Attytood 04/02/2015. Samuel Mosteller, head of the Georgia chapter of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC), took a position that the national SCLC didn't find welcome:

The SCLC's Mosteller shocked a lot of people when he said African-Americans should "exercise their Second Amendment rights” in response to police-involved shootings. “You stand there, (police) shoot. You run, they shoot," he said. "We’re going to have to take a different tack.” Not surprisingly, the national SCLC suspended Mosteller and told him to undergo training in King's non-violent principles.

It would be an understatement to say that police shootings of African-American suspects have been in the news, especially since the Mike Brown killing and subsequent unrest in Ferguson. This week, I saw a shocking statistic -- that the more than 100 Americans killed by police during March was more than the number of people killed by police in the United Kingdom since 1900. But that's also just one aspect of the dangers of living in arguably the most violent developed nations in the world -- especially for those who live in poverty-stricken inner-city neighborhoods, where many blacks and other minorities are concentrated. [my emphasis]
And he provides some historical background to what looks a bit like the revolving of a cycle:

This new trend is a sad commentary on the current state of the violence debate in America -- and it's also infuriating. Make no mistake, a dangerous extremiist [sic] group called the NRA -- and the politicians who beg for its offerings on bended knee -- bears a disproportionate share of the blame. The gun lobby's growing success in killing even the mildest moves towards gun sanity in America, even after the senseless slaughter of babies in Newtown in 2012, has finally convinced rational people that we can never reduce the firepower on our streets -- that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

The circle on this is beyond ironic. History buffs remember that blacks arming themselves -- citing police brutality -- was a key tenet of the rise of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. A black open-carry event at the California State Capitol led the NRA and the state's then-new governor -- Ronald Reagan, perhaps you've heard of him? -- to endorse gun control measures aimed at the black power movement. Today's new developments may test how much has really changed in American society since 1967.
From what's quoted here, Mosteller was far from advocating forming armed self-defense militias against the police or the like. Members of the NRA national leadership routinely say things that sound far more like advocacy of political violence that what Mosteller is quoted here as saying. And they don't get suspended from that organization for doing so. And their certainly aren't required to attend non-violence training for doing so!

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentions two recent cases of black men killed by police that were part of the immediate background of his comments (Report: SCLC suspends president of Georgia chapter 04/01/2015):

His remarks came one week after 23-year-old Goodyear employee Nicholas Thomas was fatally shot by Smyrna police serving an arrest warrant on a probation violation. Police say Thomas tried to run over officers in a customer’s Maserati, though lawyers hired by the dead man’s family have challenged the official account.

Last month, 27-year-old Anthony Hill, who suffered from bipolar disorder, was shot and killed by a DeKalb County police officer. The officer alleged the Afghanistan war veteran charged him in a threatening manner. Hill was nude and unarmed at the time.
Public officials and police departments need to find ways to dial back the level of violence directed at black citizens today. It's wrong. And it feeds further cycles of hatred and fear.

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