Friday, August 29, 2014

St. Paul Police Use Taser On Black Man For Minding His Own Business

Although this blog has discussed the issue quite often, over the past few weeks thanks to the events in Ferguson and elsewhere, there has been a great deal of media spotlight on the negative attention police give to black people, particularly black men. Whether it's a black man choked to death for allegedly selling unlicensed cigarettes or a black man shot and killed in Wal-Mart for considering purchasing a BB gun or a black woman brutally beaten for walking close to traffic it appears that police generally have a very low threshold for initiating and escalating violence against black people. Now we learn that in St. Paul, Minnesota back in January 2014 (the video was just released) the police tased and arrested a black man who refused to show them id. It is not necessarily a crime to refuse to show police id. Police can't demand id without some sort of "reasonable suspicion" that you're involved in criminal activity. Minnesota has declined to enact a "stop and identify" law. The police were originally called because the black man, one Chris Lollie, was sitting in a chair in a downtown skyway. A security guard claimed the chair was on private property and ordered Lollie away. Lollie left but apparently not as quickly as the security guard desired. When the video starts Lollie has already left the chair and is having a tense conversation with an officious female police officer. Lollie was waiting in the skyway (as he thought wrongly as it turned out) to pick up his children from daycare. Video below the jump.

When her male partner gets near the "conversation" becomes extremely threatening on the part of the police officers. Shortly afterwards Lollie is tased and arrested. Near the end you can hear the female police officer taunting him. The officer who tased Lollie told him that he wasn't his brother. He certainly got that right. When Lollie wants to know why he is being arrested the police tell him he'll find out. Lollie was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, disorderly conduct and obstructing legal process. The charges were thrown out because of the video. So once again we have a black man being abused and arrested not for anything he did (at least from what we can tell from the video) but because he did not give white police officers what they considered to be the proper level of shuffling deference. Too many police think that their job is to intimidate, subdue and assault. I think the job simply attracts too many authoritarian types. This sort of thing is exactly why there were groups like the African Blood Brotherhood or Deacons of Defense or Black Panthers. Police harassment of Black people is a serious problem. Unfortunately local municipalities, police unions and the courts have made it increasingly difficult to get bad police officers off the force let alone put them in prison. Lollie says that he is going to file an internal affairs complaint and is considering a lawsuit. Good luck with that. This is not something that can be fixed with retraining. This is something that needs to have a very clear "You can't DO that" tattooed into police officers' heads.  I am starting to think that Cliven Bundy had the right idea of how to deal with cops. Of course Huey P. Newton already showed us that. 

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